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Jagath Dheerasekara November 21, 2013

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Sri Lanka.

Rosarians,Ragama, Sri Lanka, 2008

Jagath Dheerasekara (b. 1965, Sri Lanka) is an Amnesty International Human Rights Innovation Fund Grant recipient for the Manuwangku: Under the Nuclear Cloud project. His activism led to his exile in France as a political refugee. He returned to Sri Lanka in the mid 1990’s after regime change. On returning home, Jagath began a career in telecommunications and involvement in photography. His work has been published in: Artlink, the South Asia Journal for Culture, PIX Photography Quarterly and Time Machine Magazine. In Australia his photography and is mainly about Aboriginal and refugee rights. Jagath lives in Sydney.

About the Photograph:

“This photo is of the Sunday morning congregation at the Sister’s section at the Rosarian Convent chapel in Ragama, Sri Lanka. Men are not normally allowed within the inner premises and can have access only up to the parlor, the kitchen store or the section of lay persons of the chapel. Sisters maintain minimum contacts with outside. At the first visit, after a lengthy chat with the Sister Superior I was permitted to go in and photograph the chapel area dedicated only to sisters. The Nun’s lives are a daily routine done in silence, with the least verbal engagement, in reverential service to God. The routine is filled with engagement in cottage industries such as candle, syrup and jam making, cultivation and animal husbandry which provides financial support to the convent as well as providing a service to the community. Established in 1928, the Rosarians were the first entirely Christian congregation not only in Sri Lanka but also in Asia. The Rosarian order of nuns subsequently was established in 1950.”

“When I made a request to photograph their life and the space they live in I was not optimistic about it. A few weeks later came a positive response. It was a novel experience for the sisters to have a man of Buddhist background taking an interest in their Christian way of life. As friendship grew I was warmly welcomed into their space, including the offer of pure vegetarian meals as it was my food preference. The photographing intertwined with many a discussions along themes of renunciation, loving kindness, reincarnation, greed, hatred and delusion, creation and heaven, some of which are common and other exclusive to Christianity and Buddhism.”