Feature Article

'Tender shoots of Mullaithivu'

[TamilNet, Sunday, 03 April 2005, 21:01 GMT]
A photographic exhibition highlighting the suffering of survivors in Mullaithivu of the devastation wrought by the December 26 tsunami has opened in London. Internationally renowned photographer Carlos Reyes-Manzo’s exhibition titled ‘Tender Shoots of Mullaithivu’ was formally launched at the famous bookshop, Foyles, last Thursday. The exhibition, which is named after Senthalir orphanage in Mullaithivu, which Mr. Reyes-Manzo visited in January, focuses on the plight of people in areas around Mullaitivu and comprises black and white photographs depicting the destruction wrought on coastal villages and portraits of survivors, all taken in his characteristic style.

Carlos Reyes-Manzo’"The images in the exhibition cover the impact of the tsunami on the lives of the communities I visited and the suffering caused, especially to children. They show the destruction of schools, homes, churches, orphanages, and fishermen's boats and nets," Mr. Reyes-Manzo says.

"When I was there people were already beginning to return to their villages, so there is also an underlying message of hope," he said.

Asked by TamilNet why he had chosen to visit Mullaithivu in particular, Mr. Reyes-Manzo said: "I was deeply touched by the [December 26] tragedy. I wanted, however, to visit areas that were not well covered by the media and I felt that the Tamil areas of northern Sri Lanka were very much less covered than other parts [of the region]."

Mr. Reyes-Manzo stressed his work’s focus on the living, rather than on those who perished in the tidal waves.

"I choose not to document human beings in death. One doesn’t need to take away their dignity. You can also feel and understand people’s suffering through seeing the plight of the living," he told TamilNet.

The exhibition was formally opened on Thursday by actress Saffron Burrows, known for her roles in the Hollywood blockbuster ‘Troy’ and films like ‘Enigma’ and ‘Deep Blue Sea.’

Introducing Mr. Reyes-Manzo’s work as a beacon in times of difficulty, Ms. Burrows quoted Eleanor Roosevelt, saying ‘it is better to light a candle than curse the darkness’. She concluded with the observation that ‘even long after the pain, art still lives on’.

The opening was attended by a wide cross section of people, including Amnesty International staff, members of the UK Parliamentary Human Rights Group and journalists.

Lord Avebury, a founder member of the British parliamentary human rights group hailed Mr. Reyes-Manzo’s ability to capture the dignity of his subjects, even under the most traumatic of circumstances.

In his own speech on the exhibition, Mr. Reyes-Manzo stressed the amazing warmth and hospitability of the people he met on his visit to Mullaitivu, despite the most difficult of circumstances.

Many of his photographs resonate with a theme of resilience, hope and a spirit of survival, in particular a series of photographs of families returning to camps near their villages in tractors as rebuilding begins, as well as portraits of the Senthalir children, he said.

He also took the opportunity to introduce the Arobanam children's fund, a British registered charity currently raising funds for the reconstruction of Senthalir.

The exhibition is part of Foyles Spring Festival which runs from 15 March to 15 April and which will be the venue for special events including book launches by celebrities, Lauren Bacall among others.

Reyes-Manzo’s exhibition will be at Foyles till 8th April and will move on to other venues, including St Ethelburga’s center for peace and reconciliation in May.

The Senthalir orphanage which forms the inspiration for the exhibition is one of five children’s homes run by the Centre for Women’s Development (CWDR).

Reyes-Manzo is well known in the UK as a photo journalist who actively opposed the Chilean dictator, General Augusto Pinochet. Imprisoned and tortured by Pinochet’s regime, Mr Reyes Manzo sought asylum in Britain, where he was subsequently involved in human rights groups’ efforts to persuade the British government to extradite Pinochet.

Related Articles:
26.01.05   Emotional Mourning day observed at Senthalir Children Home
21.01.05   "Loss of children has shaken us"- Thamilini
28.12.04   Mullaithivu situation grim amid rising toll

External Links:
APA: Anders Press Agency
Guardian: 'We were dreamers'
TIS: Centre for Women's Development and Rehabilitation (CWDR) and the Projects Implemented


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