On the 18th of March 2019 at Theertha Performance Platform (TPP), I sat at a table from 11 am to 5.30 pm, translating and writing down various headlines, articles, and bits of information about Chelsea Manning. There was a chair opposite where passers-by could sit and talk to me. The location was Borella junction, one of the busiest places in Colombo. It had been a week since Manning was sent to prison for refusing to testify before a secret grand jury that is drawing up fabricated charges against Julian Assange.
When someone took the seat, I read out quotations from an article I had on the table, or from one of the translations I did. This triggered a conversation. Many people knew who she is, some did not. Those who sat there got involved in many different ways. They wrote down their thoughts, poems, letters, phrases and made drawings in response to what I said or did. Thanks to TPP, there was an international audience, writing and responding in a wide range of languages: Sinhala, Tamil, English, Kannada, Greek, Persian, Urdu and even Esperanto! (These written material will be added to another performance installation in the near future.) Some of the participants wanted to talk about Chelsea, Assange and Wikileaks; about heroes of our time. It was a table where we celebrated what Chelsea Manning has done. This was meant to be very simple and direct. This shared moment, this conversation matters; this consciousness and awareness alone counts. Thank you everyone for stopping by and getting involved. Chelsea Manning should be freed immediately!
Conversations about Chelsea Manning: A performance by Lohan Gunaweera. Photographed by Vasantha Wakkumbura. (Images are available under CC-BY-SA)