Five years ago: ‘Stranded’ an art exhibition (and so much more) by Sivasubramaniam Kajendran

Five years ago, Siva called me up and said ‘please can you do a post for my exhibition?’ That was this post on Stranded which he exhibited in Jaffna.  Today, am waiting for another call from Siva to create a post on his N.O.W exhibition which is at the Theertha Red Dot Gallery on 6 March 2021. It is incredible to think of how one phone call could have created an encounter. But we Sri Lankans have not snuffed out that ‘energy’ to ‘initiate’ ‘create’ and ‘encounter’ all by our own wee selves. Yes, from all over the world. We are here! 

Stranded 1STRANDED: by Sivasubramanium Kajendran

Première at  2.30 pm on 28th March at the Art Gallery, University of Fine Arts, Jaffna.

Exhibition dates: 28th March-1st April 2016.

I still hear Siva’s strong voice as he concluded our conversation a little while ago with the words ‘give my regards to your family.’ Bitterly ironic, given what Siva has left to call his own.

Gaya: Siva, so, what is the meaning of Stranded in Tamil?

Siva: It’s ‘thavippu’, ‘thavippu’ means stranded. There are so many hidden words within the word ‘thavippu’ – ‘thaavi’ for example.  Tha-Vi- Pu also stands for a former LTTE name ok – Thamil eelam Viduthalai puligal – that is one meaning. But when we were in the war, we were displaced everywhere. So, Tha-Vi-Pu- meant to us, Tharmapuram – Vishwamadu -Puthukkudiyiruppu. People even used to talk like that at the time, it was to us, the displacement.

‘Does thavippu’ also mean something by itself?’ I ask Siva.  Thavippu means yearning. Siva used the words abandonment, sadness, no one cares about you, escape, the feeling of futility and emptiness, a yearning. It is not fixed in time. When I was a child, I didn’t think about my family, but now I think about them all the time, and now I discover that I am still stranded… in ‘thavippu’.

Stranded 3Is it a mental state? I ask. It is mental but also physical, said Siva. My body… but also my life is in a rented space. I need to find Thavippu for myself, my family, my society. If my exhibition is successful, I will continue to the next phase.

Siva is a talented artist who by the grace of his Muse and mentors has a strong visual message for his audience.

If you are interested  listen to the podcast and read on.

‘I don’t remember my sister’s face’ said Siva.For years after the Tsunamis, they lived in different ‘Homes’ and he never met her again. ‘The young people didn’t want to fight in the LTTE’ he said ‘but they forced us. I escaped, but my sister was recaptured and I heard that she had been injured in her spine and so, went back to the LTTE area dressed in their fatigues, in dark glasses, trying to find her’. He never did. Read more on Siva’s story here.


Siva has no abode at the moment. He lives on rent, with his growing collection of paintings that he says he is compelled to continue.

I went back to Mullaitivu where my home was, two weeks ago, he said. A relative told me, go to that tree, look in that direction and that was where your home was. I found a small piece of my boundary he says placing his hands a little apart. My mother had just brought us back to our home, and rebuilt it during the ceasefire. It was the first time I was in my own home and I was 16 years’ old. We were just 50 yards from the sea; we had no chance. Since then, it was Children’s Homes and the LTTE and being forced to go forward, go forward. We didn’t want to fight. I stood and looked at the place that was my home. I cried. But, no one knows, because I went there alone.

Stranded poster



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