Please note that this graphical artwork is taken as an example to create archival awareness. The situation mentioned below is rather common for almost all Tamil organisations.
“Phoenix of Tamil Eelam” (this title is given by DsporA Tamil Archive) is a graphic artwork published by Tamil Youth Organisation, Norway (TYO Norway) in November 2009. The organisation has many branches all over the world. And has been managed by the second generation diaspora Tamils. Now also includes third-generation Tamils. The designer, Kri Thirunavukkarasu, created this graphical artwork based on a concept of a phoenix bird rising from Tamil Eelam(1). Based on communication with the designer, this artwork can convey various dimensions or interpretations of the history of Tamils from Eelam.
Here is the phoenix graphic with the label of TYO, specifically the local branch, Trondheim in Norway. This graphic artwork is found on the Facebook page of Kri Thirunavukkarasu. However, the graphical artwork needs to be preserved in the organisational archive of TYO Norway. This graphic of a phoenix bird rising from Tamil Eelam has been re-used by other Tamils in the past 11 years.
How many of us know that this graphic artwork was originally published by TYO Norway? How many of us know that this graphic artwork was originally designed by Kri Thirunavukkarasu for TYO Norway?
This is a common characteristic of Tamil creators and Tamil organisations. We are unaware of the future need and purpose of creating an organisational archive. Once a product is created, we are not concerned with giving it title and ownership. This is a common tendency as a result of our charitable work and generosity to contribute to Tamil society. We think that the focus then will be on the product and the message rather than the person or organisation. We want to keep the profile down. And unconsciously or consciously avoid mentioning the origin of a product, activity or process. Another aspect of this is based on our mindset that the product is meant for every diaspora Tamil and not only for certain organisations or Tamils in a specific country. This practice can apply to any Tamil creator or organisation in the charitable workspace. Another major factor for the lack of creating an organisational archive is no judicial demand to create an archive in private organisations. However, organisations usually create monthly reports. But the purpose of those reports has a short lifetime. When the report was sent to the overall management to let them know the activity of the completing month, the report might not be taken care of at the local organisational level. Unless the overall management preserves these kinds of documents, the records of local activity are lost.
Based on the communication with Kri Thirunavukkarasu, DsporA Tamil Archive identified the difference between “Phoenix of Tamil Eelam” and “Keep the flame alive” (this title is given by DsporA Tamil Archive). Last mentioned is a re-creation of the original design by someone in Canada. Month and year unknown, as well as the creator and publisher unknown. However, this design is vastly used as a profile picture on social media, especially, during the Tamil genocide month, May, every year after 2009. The public use of this graphic artwork creates a historical value and context around “Keep the flame alive”.
The three elements, that was mentioned in the series “What is ஆவணம்?-5”, “origin, purpose and context”, being unconsciously destroyed. It is especially important to keep track of these three elements in digital productions. That is to prevent manipulation of “origin, purpose and context” of a product, activity and process. Hence, it is easy to copy, transfer and manipulate origin at the digital workspace. If such documents continuously lack these three elements over decades, the continuity of the history of an organisation and its functionality can be twisted, dissolved, seized and lost. Another common characteristic among Tamils and Tamil organisations are hunting after history when they start to lose or even after the loss of history. The organisations are the only ones who can protect the continuity of history and rights of an organisation and the society around an organisation through their organisational archive.
The process of gathering the archival materials of an organisation is a job for the current committee. But giving the appropriate cooperation in the collection process is the responsibility of all former and contemporary members who hold the archival documents. Hence, those archival materials are properties of the organisation and the historical and cultural heritage of a society. It can be a consolation that this situation is also common for Norwegian voluntary organisations. Please don´t forget that isolated archives at homes with no public access and use are equivalent to lost archives.
Disclaimer: Due to the lack of or fragmented archives or limited access to archives in Tamil society, it has been challenging to get access to available sources that can support oral history interviews. In this situation, writing about diaspora Tamil history will be a dynamic process that may change its shape and be updated over time. Thus, we welcome the public to provide feedback with any verifiable sources in the case of need for correction in the factual information on this website.