Kannan Arunasalam: The Tent at The Tetley

Sara Jaspan, Exhibitions Editor
Kannan Arunasalam: The Tent at The Tetley
Kannan Arunasalam, Union leader, Bala Tampoe addressing a strike, 2010. Courtesy the artist

Kannan Arunasalam: The Tent at The Tetley, 16 February — 2 June 2019 Entrance is free

Between 1983 and 2009, civil war raged for more than a quarter of a century in Sri Lanka, killing at least 100,000 people and leading to the enforced disappearance of tens of thousands of ethnic Tamils (one UN estimate placing the number of Tamils who died during the final arm offensive alone at 40,000). A decade on, relatives of the missing are still waiting to find out what happened, and only after years of building international pressure has an ‘Office of Missing Persons’ been set up to investigate. Charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity, the Sri Lankan government continues to stall on efforts to address accountability and reconciliation.

British-Sri Lankan documentary filmmaker and human rights lawyer, Kannan Arunasalam’s work focuses on stories from Asia and has appeared in The GuardianAl Jazeera Witness and The New Yorker, having returned to live and work in his place of birth. ‘The Tent’ (2017), however, marks his first commission specifically for a contemporary art context, while the film’s accompanying exhibition at The Tetley in Leeds represents his first solo-show in the UK.

‘The Tent’ focuses on the experiences of some of the mothers and wives of the missing, who protested against the lack of investigation by setting up camp outside government offices in the north of the country. The dual-screen installation not only highlights the mixture of loss, grief and hope that characterises their stories, but also juxtaposes the day-to-day reality of life inside the camp with footage from the large crowds and media attention it drew on the 500-day-anniversary of consecutive protest.

A lack of consistent news coverage seems unsurprising in Sri Lanka, where the mainstream local media is either state-owned or disinclined to report on anything that presents the country in a negative light. Yet it is also reflective of the wider way in which important stories and issues are allowed to slowly drift from public consciousness as reporting outlets constantly race to whatever’s ‘just breaking’ in a bid to keep our attention.

The Tent will also feature a selection of Arunasalam’s earlier short films and portraits, including interviews with elders from across Sri Lanka which capture a range of perspectives on identity and the meaning of loss. The exhibition will be presented alongside For Oluwale by Rasheed Araeen, which marks the 50th anniversary of the death of David Oluwale – a British-Nigerian who drowned in the River Aire in 18th April 1969 after being systematically harassed by members of the Leeds City Police force.

Kannan Arunasalam: The Tent at The Tetley, 16 February — 2 June 2019 Entrance is free

What's on at The Tetley

Where to go near Kannan Arunasalam: The Tent at The Tetley

Leeds Discovery Centre
Leeds
Museum
Leeds Discovery Centre

Home to over one million fascinating objects, Leeds Discovery Centre offers a richly eclectic window into the natural world and human history.

Leeds
Tourist Attraction
Leeds Dock

Leeds Dock is a creative waterside village, home to a vast number of businesses and shops.

Leeds
Museum
The Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds

The Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds is home to the national collection of arms and armour, set in Leeds Dock, just a short walk from Leeds city centre.

Leeds
Restaurant
Sheaf Street Cafeteria

Part of the effortlessly cool Duke Studios, Sheaf Street offers all kinds of interesting food and drink plus events and resident DJs.

The Tetley Bar and Kitchen
Leeds
Restaurant
The Tetley Bar and Kitchen

The Tetley Bar and Kitchen is a British restaurant based in the heart of Leeds, where all proceeds go towards supporting the venue’s artistic programme.

The Adelphi Leeds
Leeds
Restaurant
The Adelphi Leeds

Old Victorian pub, decked out with wood panelling and old tiling, specialising in real ale and quality pub food.

Leeds
Event venue
Salem Chapel, Leeds

Salem Chapel is a multipurpose venue for conferences, exhibitions, meetings and training days in Leeds. 

42 The Calls Leeds
Leeds
Hotel
42 The Calls

42 The Calls is a modernised boutique hotel that sits beside the River Aire, minutes walk from the Royal Armouries Museum.

Riveresque Cafe Leeds
Leeds
Restaurant
Riveresque

Riveresque is a laid-back riverside café in the heart of Leeds.

Clayton Hotel Leeds
Leeds
Hotel
Clayton Hotel

Modern and family-friendly hotel in the centre of Leeds, complete with classy restaurant and in-house fitness rooms.

Malmaison Leeds
Leeds
Malmaison Leeds

Stylish hotel in Leeds that does it all, and does it well, with dark mood lighting and that glorious purple colour scheme

What's on: Exhibitions

Culture Guides