Deichman Library, Stovner (23.04.2022-28.04.2022)
Diaspora Tamil Archives (DTA) is an online resource center and community archives that works with documentation, preservation, and dissemination of Tamil-Norwegian migration history.
To mark our 2 year anniversary of work, we wanted to arrange “Our Day” with a pop-up portrait exhibition with the concept “Tamil-Norwegian women in a male-dominated world”. As well as contributing to the marking of the Year of Volunteering 2022 (Frivillighetens år 2022). This opening ceremony of the exhibition was held at Deichman library at Stovner centre on Saturday, 23 April 2022.
In order to inform today’s society about the varied professions and fields it is possible to be a part of as a Tamil-Norwegian woman, we assigned questions to 11 incredibly inspiring women who chose to share their words. The exhibition was categorized into themes such as women in sport, politics, organizational leadership, society and media and communication. Among them were, for example, two women from the Norwegian Tamil Health Organization (NTHO) and two from Unge Tamiler. While all were portraits of individual women, ‘Ilangkatru’ (Tamil youth radio) was a group picture. With this exhibition, DTA wanted to honour these talented women in various roles and backgrounds who leave an important footprint in our society. It was possible to see and read the portraits of these women at the exhibition until Thursday 28 April 2022.
The portrayed women
- Kamzy Gunaratnam (parliamentary representative for the Labor Party (Arbeiderpartiet))
- Vasuky Jayapalan (organisational leader, Oslo Fine Arts)
- Siv Rajendram Eliassen (screenwriter, Dreamroom AS)
- Maitrayi Sabaratnam (former editor for women magazine, Sakti magazine)
- Treshalini Anne Kantigern (former coach and player, SF Grei)
- Sathiaruby Sivaganesh (practitioner, Oslo Stick Fighting Club)
- Sulaksana Sivapatham (politician, substitute for Oslo SV’s City Council Group)
- Nidarsika Paramalingam (student and activist, Rom Ung)
- Dushyah Sivakaran (deputy chairman, Ung Tamiler)
- Divya Kemathas (financial manager, Ung Tamiler)
- Cyndia Jeyandra (chairman of the board, Norsk Tamilsk Helseorganisasjon – NTHO)
- Santhiya Pirapakaran (board member, Norsk Tamilsk Helseorganisasjon – NTHO)
Radiovert og lydteknikere fra “Ilangkatru” radio som ga utstillingsbidrag: Vennila, Abinaja, Tharahai, Abirami, Akilina, Sambavi, Vaithehi, Sindhuja (andre bidragsytere i radioen: Merisha, Kayalvili)
Radio host and Sound technicians of “Ilangkatru” youth radio who made exhibition contribution: Vennila, Abinaja, Tharahai, Abirami, Akilina, Sambavi, Vaithehi, Sindhuja (Other contributors in the radio: Merisha, Kayalvili)
A couple of women in the portrait posters were also present at the event, such as student and activist Nidarsika Paramalingam (Ninthu). Nidarsika started by opening the exhibition with her self-written poems/spoken word. The first poem was about racism in the housing market; “Because an old man with wrinkles thinks our food stinks, he says he doesn’t rent to Indians anymore.” (translated form Norwegian). Through the poem, the Tamil migration story was conveyed, and we got to hear a talented Tamil woman who stood up for herself. She also read out her poem ‘Like the sun we rise’ (‘Som sola står vi opp’). Nidarsika told here about her mother, which she referred to the sun. “Tamils, we salute the sun. We celebrate and thank it. It gives us light, food, warmth and life. There is no doubt that my mother was my sun, which burns stronger than anything else, but never burns out,” she says proudly.
University lecturer at Oslomet, Leiv Bjelland was also present at the exhibition. Leiv Bjelland says that “Community Archives” have in recent years become an important field of research and an important arena for collaboration between archivists and the public. “Community archives can be described as documentation centers or initiatives run by and for a certain group in a certain community.” Until 22nd April 2022, he had thought that Community Archives did not exist in Norway, but during the exhibition he said that Diaspora Tamil Archives fits well under this category.
And Ola Alsvik (Research librarian (first assistant professor) at the National Library of Norway) believes that “this is a wise and well-thought-out exhibition, which also conveys warmth and commitment. The female portraits are soft spoken, but intense – and they give clear insights into very different people who share a common identity as Tamils. An additional important point is it goes without saying that the exhibition is created by Tamils themselves, by the zealots of the DTA. It is shaped by their gaze, not by outside perspectives.”
As a feather on the hat, OsloMet-Storbyuniversitet has changed its teaching program after the DTA exhibition at Deichman Stovner. Since spring 2022, DTA has been taught as an example of Community Archives in Norway for students at Bachelor in Archive Science. Today, DiasporA Tamil Archives is an online resource center and a Community Archives in Norway. This was the reason why the exhibition illustrated how, among other things, preservation institutions can contribute to inclusion, belonging and changes in the society.
The exhibition also contained a station for children to sit down and colour. Here they could color the Tamil national flower, gloriosa lily (ceṅkāntaḷ). It is the state flower of the state of Tamil Nadu in India and the national flower of Tamil Eelam (North-East Sri Lanka). In this exhibition, ceṅkāntaḷ was exhibited in honor of all Tamil-Norwegian women who have migrated, born and raised in Norway and who have their roots from these areas. A picture of the gloriosa lily with the colors was placed on the table so the children could see what the flower looks like. The children could also color a picture of line art which consisted of 5 portraits of the interviewed women. They wondered who these women in the picture were and what role they played for this Tamil-Norwegian exhibition. “Why is there a picture of this girl here?”, asks a small boy, pointing to the picture. This communication method worked effectively on the children, who had many questions to ask.
Deichman Library, Linderud (12.11.2022-30.11.2022)
We organised the pop-up portrait exhibition “Tamil-Norwegian women in a male-dominated world” again in November 2022. This time we wanted to mark the continuation of “Our Day” from April 2022 and mark the “Archives Day 2022” of the Nordic countries. This time the exhibition was exhibited at Deichaman Linderud (Deichman Demo).
During this exhibition, we were visited by Oslo City Archives and Accociation of NGOs in Norway (Frivillighet Norge), who interviewed the DiasporA Tamil Archives for the “knekk inkluderingskoden” website.
Project managers for the exhibition: Withya Wijeyaraj og Poorani Nagendran, with Sivanja Naguleswaran og Baheerathy Kumarendiran. Photos: Mathushiya Pirabaharan, Elil Chelliah, Helene Opheim og Baheerathy Kumarendiran.
Article written by (Norwegian): Mathushiya Pirabaharan
Introduction to Community Archives:
Michelle Caswell; Seeing Yourself in History: Community Archives and the Fight Against Symbolic Annihilation. The Public Historian 1 November 2014; 36 (4): 26–37. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/tph.2014.36.4.26
Read the article at Lokalhistoriewiki.no, National Library of Norway.