The question of what “diaspora” means was put forward to DiasporA Tamil Archives on 15th September 2022. Hence, the term is observed as new among the grassroots Norwegians. With Nichola G. Stephen, Dhayalan Velauthapillai, and Macwin Yogendran were we delighted to take part in the panel discussion at the Norwegian event, “det tamilske Bergen” (The Tamil Bergen), organised by Det Vestnorske Teateret and Memoar. The panel was headed by Bjørn Enes from Memoar. Though the event was celebrating Tamil history in Bergen, DiasporA Tamil Archives see the event as an acknowledgement of the history of the Tamil diaspora all over Norway. It is also noteworthy that the event took place in Bergen, where Antony Rajendram landed 66 years ago and also has his 90th birth anniversary this year. Annam Dance and students from Annai Poopathi Tamil Cultural Centre in Bergen contributed with cultural features to celebrate the event.
The cultural features had a mixture of dance, song, music and speeches. Salvi Mohaneswaran gave a speech on Thirukkural (ancient Tamil literature). Arush Ramesh a speech on November 27, the day every year Tamils all over the world remember national heroes who fought for Tamil rights in Sri Lanka. Girls from Annam Dance, led by Nichola G. Stephen gave an experience of Tamil dance and music. Last but not least, Abinaya Tharmalingam sang a lullaby sung by a father to his daughter. The entire cultural evening was led by Frøydis Århus, director of the Vestnorske Teateret (West Norwegian Theatre). In a conversation, she stated that this is the first time the Tamil language is heard at the Det Vestnorske Teateret (West Norwegian Theatre).
The panel discussion gave a taste of who Tamil Bergen is. It also represented a mix of first and second-generation Tamils. The panel talked about oppression, migration, identity, the need for identity, and the search for belonging.
The topic of what “diaspora” means, and the societal need that triggered the start-up of DiasporA Tamil Archives was also taken up in the panel discussion. The term “diaspora” signifies a group of people scattered all around the world from their core region, known as their homeland. It is a forced migration to save their life and existence. The second part of a diasporic characteristic is to preserve and practice their native culture, history and language as their asset of identity. Eelam Tamils (Tamils from Eelam, today known as Sri Lanka) have these two components that make them a “Tamil diaspora”. However, the Tamil diaspora, for instance in Norway, also simultaneously integrates into the culture of the host country that has become a homeland for the third and fourth-generation Tamils. All three participants in the panel discussion who are Bergen residents expressed these two components that DiasporA Tamil Archives referred to in its explanation at the event.
In later times, the term “Tamil diaspora” also includes Tamils from South India. Even though Tamils from Tamil Nadu in South India have a voluntary migration for economic, educational or family-related causes, they enrich the act of preservation and practice of Tamil culture, history and language.
The day, 15th September, when the question of “diaspora” was put forward is also intuitively significant. Thus, here is an extended explanation to the question where we also commemorate Lt. Col. Thileepan. He is one of many who have become the source of the diasporic identity of Tamils. Thileepan was a medical student and leader of the liberation movement’s political division in Jaffna. 35 years ago he went through a hunger strike from 15th to 26th September 1987 with five demands to the Indian and Sri Lankan governments.
- Withdraw Sinhalese army camps from Tamil areas,
- suspend all rehabilitation work until the formation of an interim (Tamil) government for the Tamil homelands,
- stop the continuing Sinhala colonisation in the Tamil homeland,
- halt the setting up of Sinhala-manned police stations in Tamil areas and
- release all detainees held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
The period of July 1983 to July 1987, known as the Eelam War I was the initial phase of the armed conflict between Sri Lankan Military Forces and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. This was the period when a mass exodus of Tamils was forced to leave their homeland. Although a small number of Eelam Tamils had previously migrated voluntarily for economic, educational or family-related reasons, the mass exodus formed the title “Tamil diaspora” and made it internationally familiar. Sadly, in September 1987, even after the Indo-Sri Lanka Peace Accord, Lt. Col. Thileepan lost his life due to failed assurance of Tamil rights. Today after 35 years, the demand from Thileepan remains urgent for the Tamils in North-east Sri Lanka (Tamil Eelam).
Det tamilske Bergen at Det Vestnorske Teateret
About “det tamilske Bergen” at Bjørn Ernes´s website
The Tamil site at Memoar
Facebook event of “det tamilske Bergen”