Anoma Rajakaruna has warm memories of her childhood in the diverse suburb of Panadura, where she went to the market and the pharmacy with her mother and chatted with neighbors in a mixture of English, Sinhalese and Tamil.
Then bloody riots targeting minority Tamils exploded across the Sri Lankan capital. The Tamil neighbors she once greeted disappeared. And her country was plunged into a civil war that continues to consume it.
As Sri Lanka marks the 25th anniversary of the riots Wednesday, two exhibits by artists from the Sinhalese majority seek to prod their countrymen into acknowledging a quarter century of suffering, in the hopes of offering a path out of the violence.
"We need to take a minute after 25 years to think," said Rajakaruna, 43, a photographer and documentary filmmaker. "People haven't dealt with this as they should."
Her exhibit, "July: Life After 25 Years," is a series of photographs of Tamil victims of the riots and the ensuing war. The images are stark and each portrait shows a different facet of the tremendous suffering.
One shows the lined and nearly expressionless face of a woman, almost 70, who lost all seven of her sons in the violence.
Another examines a Hindu Tamil writer, who lost all his works in the flames and now sculpts Buddha statues for the temples of poor Sinhalese Buddhists.
Yet another zeros in on the key tied around the neck of a woman, who was driven from homes 16 times because of the violence.
Many in the Sinhalese community see themselves as victims of the separatists' bombs and suicide attacks and have never taken time to see that the Tamils are suffering as well, Rajakaruna said.
"I wanted (the Sinhalese) to look at it and realize what we are going through and what they are going through," she said. More...
See also: Sri Lanka and the forgotten war...