Personal archive: Tamils visit Bergen City Archive


Family members of Philominamma George visited Bergen City Archive on Thursday 27th August 2020. Caroline Thevanathan, Jerinmary George Kiserud and Thommai Madutheenu George were the second group of Tamils visiting the Bergen City Archive. The first Tamil, Julius Antonipillai, visited the same archive on Friday 26th June 2020. He is the director of the local Tamil radio, “Radio Tamil Bergen” (“தேன் தமிழ் ஓசை”). This is the first time for both Julius and the family of Philominamma to visit an archive. Same with Bergen City Archive that experienced their first visits by Tamils in Bergen regarding archiving their history.

Philominamma George migrated to Norway in 1987. She was a trained teacher in Eelam (Sri Lanka) and became mother tongue language teacher in Tamil at Norwegian government schools in Bergen municipality in 1988. At the same time, she was also volunteering as a mother tongue language teacher in Tamil at Bergen Tamil Children’s School (தமிழ் சிறுவர் பாடசாலை). This was the first Tamil school that started in Norway in 1987. Then at Bergen branch of Annai Poopathi Tamil Cultural Center (அன்னை பூபதி தமிழ்க் கலைக்கூடம், பேர்கன் வளாகம்) that stared in 2002.
Philominamma and her husband moved back to Eelam in 2004 under the cease-fire period to work as an English teacher at the Kantharuban Arivucholai1 in Vanni. In December 2004, she died in the tsunami and was buried in her homeland, Eelam. She was respected with the title patriot (“நாட்டுப்பற்றாளர்”) by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in recognition of her social work in diaspora and the homeland.

Julius Antonipillai visited Bergen City archive to find out about archiving his “organisation archive”. But the family of Philominamma visited the same institution regarding archiving the “personal archive” of Philominamma. These are two different kinds of archive in the field of “private archive”. The mother tongue language teacher wrote the book, “Tamil 1” (1995), that was the first Tamil textbook published in Norway with the support from National Teaching Aids Center. The Bergen City Archive encouraged the family to collect Philominamma´s work. That can include unpublished work of Tamil poems, speeches, and any handwritten pre-work done for the books “Tamil 1” and “Tamil 2” (1997), photos, CD, albums and others.

Caroline Thevanathan (daughter of Philominamma Geroge) told DsporA Tamil Archive how surprised and amazed her family was when they were inside the Bergen City Archive. They were informed and showed around the materials that the archive preserves and how the materials are protected from any kinds of destruction. As well as how the public access function. The preservation area is inside a mountain that is secured to maintain the same temperature that can otherwise also damage a paper over time.

The family had also talked about the oppressing history of Tamils, who have experienced prohibition of the right to information that has lead to selective information at their homeland. The archive institution explained the function of archives in Norway, which is to archive all kinds of materials including differing or opposing political views, opinions, experiences and history. The functionality of Norwegian archives is to contribute to transparency and control of the democracy in this country.

Open invitation

Caroline Thevanathan also conveyed the open invitation received by the Bergen City Archive. They are more welcome to receive Tamil organisations and Tamil individuals to archive Tamil art, culture and history.
Julius Antonipillai and the family of Philominamma are happy to share their experiences and thoughts about their visit to Bergen City Archive with other Tamils. As a first step don´t hesitate to take a contact. Then give a chance to visit a national, inter-municipal or municipal archive in your place.

Thank you for the first generation of migrated Tamils to give a chance to find out about preserving Tamil art, culture and history for the generations to come. DsporA Tamil Archive do also encourages the second or even third generations of Tamils to put archiving on their individual or organisational agenda to preserve the history of Tamil society.

1 “Kantharuban Arivucholai” was a children’s home for boys who had lost their parents in the war in Eelam. Likewise, “Sencholai Siruvar Illam” was a children’s home for girls.

Due to the lack of or fragmented archives or limited access to archives in Tamil society, it has been challenging to get access to available sources that can support oral history interviews.
In this situation, writing about diaspora Tamil history will be a dynamic process which may change its shape and be updated over time. Thus, we welcome the public to provide feedback with any verifiable sources in the case of need for correction in the factual information in this website.

Reproduction of this article is allowed when used without any alterations to the contents and the source, DsporA Tamil Archive, is mentioned.

Updated: 18.10.2020