It is the 1st anniversary of DsporA Tamil Archive. On this day, we would like to remember the birth of this infant.
«Everything we do is a story, that becomes our history. The story of this website started as a Facebook page, “Archive of Tamils in Norway”, on 23rd April 2020. It was meant to be a platform to gather or get familiar with archival publications by Tamils in Norway. As well as to gather historical facts about Tamil education services in this country. Soon it was realised that there is a primary need to raise awareness about documentation and archive. As a result, the Facebook serial post “What is ‘ஆவணம்’ (aavanam)?” was started on 13th June 2020. Based on a piece of advice from a Tamil enthusiast in Norway, the Facebook page, “Archive of Tamils in Norway”, started to evolve as a website. As a first step, the Facebook page changed its name to “DsporA Tamil Archive” on 07th July 2020. Then on 22. July 2020, this website was launched.» (DsporA Tamil Archive, 2020)
The right of remembrance
The right of remembrance becomes a human right when an individual or society feels the need to remember. This is also applicable to the right to forget. So, the right to either remember or forget could be about both positive and negative memories. They could have either positive or negative characteristic, importance and significance for the society and a nation. But this article focuses on the right of remembrance. “Remembrance is about making ourselves keeping a memory alive, or at least not allowing ourselves to overlook horrors that have happened in the past.» (Council of Europe, n.a.).
Archive, library and museum are also memory institutions. They accumulate, manage, preserve, disseminate, exhibit archival documents of the cultural heritage of a nation. These tasks are shared and overlapped throughout the three institutions. These institutions could be state, private organisations or spaces whose purpose is to maintain a repository of public knowledge. The memory institutions facilitate the right of an individual or society to remember the history, culture and heritage. For instance, they can accumulate information about the origin and development of a civilisation, an ancient book of the history of kings and kingdoms, culture and literature. A school group photo, a memorial booklet of a passed away grandmother or a grandfather, a handwritten letter of a friend, lover, wife or husband, valeric historical traces of fallen heroes who had fought for a nation or a report of a genocide that took place as ethnic cleansing. Archival documents can be in all form and medium. They can be in text-based, audio, video or multimedia documents. They can be in analogue or digital formats. All documents with different memories are the ancestorial and historical traces that mould a nation, ethnicity and identity.
In some cases, an individual or as a society could consciously exclude certain memories to prevent them to take place in history. It could be a consequence of difficulty to forgive others or accept themselves. On the other hand, overprotection could also result in losing memories to pass on to the next generations. That is a consequence of fear to lose what is remaining. However, those memories should also be remembered as either “not forgiven” or “lesson learnt”. Nevertheless, the various kinds of memories could become valuable steppingstones for future generations.
“அறிவற்றங் காக்குங் கருவி செறுவார்க்கும்
உள்ளழிக்க லாகா அரண்.» (குறள் 421, Thirukkural 2003, pp. 468-469)
Wisdom is the ultimate and impregnable defence for protection against destruction; It is also the fortress of inner strength against enemy onslaughts (English translation of Kural 421, Thirukkural 2003, pp. 468-469)
According to Thiruvalluvar[i], a Tamil poet and philosopher from the Sangam era, knowledge is the ultimate fortress. But, the majority of Tamil knowledge, especially the Tamil diaspora knowledge, is implicit knowledge. That is very risky in the maintenance of evidence for remembrance and existence. On the other hand, the documented knowledge is gradually going lost or forgotten because of lacking systematic preservation and retrieval systems. Thereby, it is essential to consciously invest in systematic documentation, preservation, retrieval and dissemination of both implicit and explicit knowledge. On the other hand, hence the knowledge is an ultimate fortress, the memory institutions are also a subject to target in a cultural genocide. However, even the experiences of the destruction of memory institutions, memory platforms and spaces, should become a “lesson learnt” knowledge for a society.
Preservation plan: “Tamils are indigenous people of Eelam”
The act of remembering challenging and horrific memories can «help those who have been affected by a terrible past event to feel that society as a whole recognises their pain, condemns the actions which led to that pain, and provides some reassurance that such actions will not be repeated in the future. Remembrance can help in this way to give a sense of closure to victims, to enable them to move on from the past.” (Council of Europe, n.a.) And it can also lead to fertilise the past for the future.
The challenges and traumatic experiences of a society can provide the basis for developing a preservation plan. Hence, all human developments are born from destructions. Tamils have thousands of years of experiences and memories of their indigenous history, development, invasion, colonialism, de-facto state and genocide. The archival documents of these experiences and memories are evidence for “Tamils are indigenous people of Eelam (ii)”. They are source materials that can logically prove the existence of Tamils at the international level.
Based on this goal, the work of accumulation, management, preservation, dissemination, and exhibition is carried out in many diaspora countries as an organisation, as an individual, or as a small group. These activities can be identified as work of an archive, library and/or museum. However, such activities should develop on a small scale in every diaspora country. They should focus on accessibility to the grass-root population of the country, which the activities are based in. Because those documents are the evidence that carries the message of “Tamils are indigenous people of Eelam”.
But it requires a creation of a preservation plan. It should base on a holistic and shared strategy. Such plan can be helpful for organisations, individuals or small groups, who are doing the archive, library and museum tasks. The plan should be divided into overall plan and local plan.
A project team should be formed to develop a preservation plan. The members of this project team should have experiences from archive, library or museum work. A possible challenge will be the critiques put on the drawn preservation plan. However, the key will be the trust in the project team and the preservation plan that they create. Winning this trust should also be a sub-goal of the project team. However, this project team should have the practice of reviewing all practical challenges and critiques once in a certain number of years. Thereby the overall plan and the local plan should be revised and renewed once in a certain number of years.
Such process can create work sharing among people doing the tasks of archive, library and museum. It will create a strong knowledge network of the diaspora Tamil community. Creating a complete and shared plan can save time, resource, and money. It will preserve our remaining memories for many generations to come. Hence, these experiences and memories are the source of our knowledge and wisdom. They will strengthen a nation and protect it by preventing a history to repeat.
Anderson-Lopez, K. & Lopez, R. (2017). Remember me. (Pixar). Coco. [YouTube].
Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3iDxU9eNQ_0
Council of Europe. (n.a.). Remembrance. Retrieved from https://www.coe.int/en/web/compass/remembrance
DsporA Tamil Archive. (2020, 16.01.2021). About us. Retrieved from https://dspora.no/about-us-2/
IGI Global Publisher of Timely knowledge. (n.a.). What is Memory Institutions. Retrieved from https://www.igi-global.com/dictionary/collaboration-on-public-programming-by-memory-institutions-in-botswana/69080
Thirukkural. (2003). (S.M.Diaz Ed. 2. ed. Vol. 1). Coimbatore: Ramanandha Adigalar Foundation.
[i] Thiruvalluvar is a Tamil poet and philosopher who wrote Thirukkural. It is a classic Tamil literature from the Sangam era that contains 1330 kurals (couplets). Each couplet is of two lines of ethics and morality. The book is translated into many languages including Norwegian.
(ii) «Eelam» is the indigenous name of the whole island, nowadays Sri Lanka (Ilankai).
IBC Tamil TV. (16.06.2020). ஈழம் இலங்கையின் பூர்வீகப் பெயர்?. Retreived from https://fb.watch/1NrGM76p4L/
TamilNet. (2008). Eezham Thamizh and Tamil Eelam: Understanding the terminologies of identity. Retrieved from https://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=99&artid=27012
Veluppillai, Alvappillai. (1997). “Language”. From https://www.tamilnet.com/img/publish/2015/11/Tamil_Language_and_Eelam_Tamils_by_Prof_A_Veluppillai_July_1997.PDF
TamilNet. (2010). “Eezham / E’lu / He’la”. From