In this photo project, I’ve tried to differentiate the Tamil diaspora into three generations: The Refugees, The Children and The Next Generation. The following photos and captions describe my personal view of these generations and their characteristics.
This first person represents our parents, the refugees that flew from the Eelam war years ago. They left their homeland, crossed the sea and settled mostly in Europe and North America. They had nothing and still tried to give us everything.
A big problem of this generation is that they don’t talk to their children about their negative memories of the war. They don’t talk to their parents and relatives back home about the struggles they have to face on a daily basis here. They ignore and repress their problems, depression and traumatic experiences.
This photo should represent us, the children of the refugees, mostly born in the West. Sometimes we feel at home in both cultures. Sometimes we feel lost and homeless between these boundaries. We know about the war, about the struggles of our people, about the sacrifices some made in the name of our liberation. But do we care? Some do, others don’t.
What most of us do is not really pay attention to the problems of our parents. We should try to open their sealed hearts with questions and listen. Listen to their thoughts, experiences and problems. Only with this information will we have a more nuanced view of the war and our people’s struggles.
This is the next generation: Our children. We don’t know what “home” is going to mean to them. They don’t really know about the war yet. Still, they know that something about their skin and mother/father tongue is different when they see the white majority in their countries.
It is our duty to open their eyes and explain to them why we are here today, why our parents crossed the sea and how they managed to give us almost everything out of nothing. They should know about their ethnic brothers’ and sisters’ struggles on the island. They should also know about our community’s problems (casteism, sexism, racism) and learn to avoid them. They should see the beauty of our culture and language.
Yes, I do have a lot of hope with this generation. But it is our responsibility to help lead them to the right path.
I am a Product of the Diaspora
Roots of Diaspora: Suthamie, the Refugee Mother
Frozen Values: Is the Tamil Diaspora Caught in a Time Warp?