DsporA Oral History Archive

Happy Pongal and Happy Tamil New Year to worldwide Tamils.

My name is Baheerathy Kumarendiran. I am a Tamil, raised in Norway, and I am interested in the history of the Tamil diaspora. My academic background includes pedagogy, and therefore I have been particularly interested in the role of Tamil schools and other relevant education platforms in terms of mother tongue knowledge, identity building and understanding of society. In 2017, I started on a book project that would document this.

What happens to the diaspora history?

An author will visit the National Archives and the State Archives to find information and inspiration for a writing project. These national archives are the memory of a nation. They store an enormous number of materials that have to do with most areas of society: language, culture, history, law and politics, just to name a few. These are books, magazines and newspapers that have been printed and published over the years, and there are photos, films and sound recordings of historical interest. Much of all this is stored in the form of traditional documents and digital documents.

Not only authors but also researchers, students, creators and the majority of the public use these archives. But in my case, when I searched for material for my book project, there was little to find any archival materials about Tamils. They currently lack systems for systematic information about various immigrant societies. Documentation about the Norwegian-Tamil history is, typically enough, scattered in many different places. For example, in press archives, at Tamil schools and clubs and in private archive collections. This makes it difficult to access, and the responsibility for the preservation of the archives is also fragmented.

DsporA Tamil Archive

While we are waiting for the national archives in the countries where we live to come into action, a lot of valuable knowledge can be lost forever. But we Tamils ​​have an independent responsibility to take care of our own history. In working on my book project, I realised that we need our own archive in the diaspora countries. Especially traditional archive. The higher studies in archival science, which I started in 2019, further strengthened this way of thinking. So, I put the book project in standby in favour of raising archival awareness and creating and running an online archive.

The website of DsporA Tamil Archive http://www.dspora.no was launched on 22 July 2020. Its initial purpose:

  • Archival awareness
  • Archive dissemination

Oral History

Collecting and preserving printed materials and other tangible historical sources is one thing. But the experiences of the first Tamils ​​who settled in Diaspora as well as those who were born here in Diaspora are to a small extent recorded in written text. What happens when the first generation of Tamils ​​is no longer with us and can tell about how the environment here originated and how it developed at the beginning? There is a need for a repository to take care of their memories and experiences.

Diaspora Tamil Archive launches its oral history archive (Norway) on this festival day of Tamils (Tamilar Thirunal, தமிழர் திருநாள்) in 2021. This archive launches with the oral history of Nalayini Indran (United Kingdom) and Mira Thiruchelvam. My heartfelt thanks to Nalayini Indran and Mira Thiruchelvam for sharing their oral history, and to Sigrun Rajendram and my mother Santhy Kumarendiran for their support.

With kind regard,
Baheerathy Kumarendiran

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