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Starting Janakaraliya Activities
Janakaraliya - Theatere Of the People
Janakaraliya Theatere Of the People

To reconstruct the broken bridge

After the independence in 1948 Sri Lankan inclination of social development was centred more towards communalism rather than nationalism. Both Sinhala and Tamil political leadership are to be blamed for this tragedy. Owing to repeated social mayhem and conflicts within this social context severe social resentment mushroomed. The ‘Black July’ of 1983 created a vast gap between Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim communities in our country. Hitherto experienced cultural ties among artistes of different communities have broken resulting severing relationships between Sinhala and Tamil artistes. As a result of inter communal antagonism learning each other’s languages have also discontinued. Learning each other’s language for harmonious relationships has been abandoned. Living in the same country the Sinhala artistes limited their creations for Sinhalese while Tamil artistes aimed their creations only for the Tamil community. In this manner both communities lost opportunities to experience, appreciate and feel each other’s melancholies and bliss. Janakaraliya cultural undertakings were launched in 2003 in such an era with the view to bring together communities culturally and socially separated in that manner. Pioneers of Janakaraliya, rich in theatre arts experiences for a long time, have used theatre arts as a tool to achieve these objectives. Theatre arts is an artistic medium that helps one to look at oneself, to share greater part of each other’s experience and to enter into dialogues with each other awakening analytical intellect.

Forming the Multi-Ethnic Theatre Group and Launching Activities

Janakaraliya was formed on the 27th March 2002 (Registered in 2003); World Drama Day, born out of its desire to develop and promote Sri Lankans' first ever multi cultural theatre group that travels across the country in a Mobile theatre. The Janakaraliya team activities were designed to be multi-cultural and bilingual from the very inception, a cardinal rule applied with dedication in all their creative work. Young people from all parts of the country and communities were brought together and trained in all aspects of performing art and social articulation to work in a multi-cultural environment. This approach was selected to first to prove to the audience that even multi religious communities with 02 different languages could work and create on their own without any personal or group inhibitions. Second was to bring together such groups to live a multicultural life on and off stage and third and finally to provide an opportunity to different youth from different areas to work together.  

The Janakaraliya multi-ethnic theatre group of 25 members, travel throughout Sri Lanka performing dramas, conducting educational programmes for school children, youth, budding dramatists and communities, and also carrying out workshops to help develop the skills and creativity of local activist groups. Additionally, the organization also holds Forum Theatre workshops as a strategy for building self esteem and self confidence among people in various marginalized social sectors and thereby facilitating social integration. Janakaraliya is the first multi-ethnic theatre group in Sri Lanka to be able to produce theatre in Sinhala and Tamil. Their work has been acknowledged at national and international levels.  

After many serious discussions about establishing a “Mobile Theatre Group” to create awareness on drama and theatre, social and ethnic peace and new youth movements in culture, it was agreed an organisation needs to be formed to implement such a programme, as much finances and organisational inputs are necessary, beyond that of individual commitments. Thereafter, with the formation of “Janakaraliya”, in January 2003 the first advertisements and news inserts in Sinhala, Tamil and English appeared in newspapers inviting applications from Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim youth. They were expected to join as fulltime members of the Mobile Theatre group and to be trained. Over two thousand Sinhala applications were received, while only 07 Tamil youth applied and no Muslims applied. The protracted war had created a huge mistrust and a socio-cultural division between Sinhala and Tamil societies. Hence the immediate rejection by the Tamil society. Within the traditional Muslim culture, there is an inhibition in getting into performing art. Tamil artistes who had previously worked with us personally and now living in Trincomalee and Nuwara-Eliya Districts helped to break the ring and with their assistance, Tamil youth joined the group. After a very strenuous gestation period, Janakaraliya started its activities on 29th July 2004 with 25 members. They consisted of 10 Tamil and 15 Sinhala youth. Janakaraliya Mobile Theatre group thus became the first theatre group in Sri Lanka to have both Sinhala and Tamil youth on the same stage.



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