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Pattini : A Photographic Journey Through the Ritualistic Worship of Goddess Pattini

Canon 5D Mark 111 | 24-70mm

Digital prints| Color and Black and White |8″x12″ | White Matt| Solid  Wood  Natural Frame

Artist Statement

Rituals and their performance are a vital human process. Religious ritual is important in many societies, as it provides them with a sense of security, mental stability, and a rational for a daily life. This photographic exhibition is a visual representation of the ritual process, and the different modes of worship by a marginalized Tamil community in Veyangoda, Sri Lanka. The exhibition aims to bring forward the frozen moments of a Pattini ritual that is celebrated by the community. The marginalized community is quite unique at it resides in a graveyard which is located 53 km away from Colombo!

The photography in this exhibition captures the frozen moments within the Pattini ritual process. The photos also reveal the embedded tensions in the ritual process. These tensions emerge as a result of an attempt to achieve two contradictory objectives: The ritual practices of their own Tamil culture, and the adaptation of these practices to attract the majority of other Tamil and Sinhala ethnic groups to recognize their presence within the broader community. For the Marginalized Tamils, the Pattini Parade is not only a religious ritual, but also a method to gain recognition within the mainstream for their ethnic and social identity.

This marginalization stems from their treatment by other high cast Tamil ethnic groups linked to their ancestral history. In part this is due the group being descendants of lower caste South Indian Tamils, as well as historical roles as exploited plantation workers. The social exclusion inflicted upon them by the neighboring Sinhala community are reinforces the community’s ongoing marginalization. This social exclusion is enforced due their current labor activities such as garbage collection, and their current place of dwelling in the graveyard. In turn, the marginalized Tamil community intensify their ritual procedures in order to legitimize their presence and gain public recognition.

In all, the exhibition attempts to document and visualize the moments of this community’s social ethno history of the Pattini ritual practices. The photographs do not elicit the history described above, but instead they provide a link to the history of these people, as well as to archive the making of history in the present, in a visual format.

This exhibition is a result of my ongoing work, and proposal to the 2017 Fulbright Award to develop a photographic book about this community.

Journey through the frames and you will encounter the anecdotes about the use of the human body, colors, artefacts, such as dresses and decorations, as well as, the pain this community carries. The viewer will not feel the ritual process as it was, photographs will tell of ritual and the community’s stories… 


296A5453B  296A2151A copy

Mario Einaudi Center for International studies 170 Uris Hall  Cornell Universality