From Darkness to Hope – The Story behind my Capture ‘Aragalaye Amma’

Aragalaye Amma The Photograph 2022 March 31 at Mirihana
‘Aragalaye Amma ‘ The Photograph – 2022 March 31 at Mirihana

As the photographer who captured the image, I witnessed firsthand the monumental event that would forever change the course of Sri Lanka’s history. It was a defining moment, filled with both sorrow and joy, as the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on July 14, 2022, marked a significant turning point for the nation.

In the months preceding this significant occasion, the people of Sri Lanka had been struggling with an unprecedented economic crisis, weighed down by its severe consequences. Their pleas for assistance appeared to be ignored, as the government displayed little regard for their predicament. However, amidst the desolation, a surge of resolve began to emerge.

I had been documenting the small, silent protests in Colombo and its surrounding areas for weeks. Though initially unnoticed by the wider world, these demonstrations laid the groundwork for what would come. Then, on March 31, 2022, a pivotal moment arrived at the Jubilee Post in Nugegoda.

aragalaya mirihana 2022 mar 31

At first, only a handful of individuals gathered, their voices carrying a silent plea for change. But as the hours wore on, the crowd steadily grew, swelling into an undeniable force that demanded attention. During this historic gathering, I was lucky to capture an image that would become an emblem of the movement.

That night I saw a young mother standing with her infant cradled in her arms, clutching a sign that bore a simple yet powerful message: “We too have kids,” Even after a year had passed. It’s 2023, and I still remember that moment like yesterday; even when I write this, I get goosebumps. I saw the bravery, courage, and power of a mother who wants a better future for her kids. I took my phone and captured that epic moment. With a simple re-touch, I uploaded it to Facebook. 

The Rock, at the University of Tennessee.
The Rock, at the University of Tennessee.

For many Sri Lankans, this photograph symbolized a shared experience of suffering and a realization that they were not alone in their struggle. The image became a rallying point, fueling their determination to continue fighting for their rights, regardless of their obstacles. And so, on July 9, 2022, a massive protest occurred near the Presidential Secretariat at Galle Face, Colombo.

On that fateful day, the citizens of Sri Lanka expressed their views with unprecedented enthusiasm. They had reached the tipping point and demanded genuine transformation. Their relentless pursuit of justice and unwavering resilience shook the foundations of power, ultimately leading to President Rajapaksa’s resignation.

aragalaya amma tatto
I believe my image represents hope and resilience, reminding us that light can be found even in the darkest times.

The winds of change have swept through our island nation, bringing forth a new era of hope and inspiration. President Rajapaksa’s resignation serves as a powerful testament to the unwavering will of the people, a stark reminder that no government is immune to the collective voice of its citizens. Our victory on July 9, 2022, was not simply about removing one leader from power but a triumph of unity, harmony, and peace.

Through tireless days and sleepless nights, the people of Sri Lanka proved their indomitable spirit. They exemplified the strength and determination that reside within every one of them. Their unwavering resolve has shown the world they will not be silenced and will fight tirelessly for their rights.

To this day, people keep asking me if this was the revolution that we hoped for. Was ‘Aragalaya’ a sucess moment? Most of the time, I skip those people without answering. But It’s time, so Let me give my answer to that. 

This hard-fought victory has instilled boundless optimism within the hearts of Sri Lankans. They now know that they possess the strength and resilience to overcome any challenge that comes their way. They have proven that despite adversity, there is always a path forward, and hope will never wane.

The people of Sri Lanka have shown us the meaning of resilience and freedom. ‘Aragalaya’ is a powerful reminder that hope can always be found, even in the darkest times. 

I want to share a song that always comes to mind when I pass Galleface Beach. This song will encourage all Sri Lankans to stand up for their rights. The lyrics go like this:

“Get up, stand up

Stand up for your right

Get up, stand up

Don’t give up the fight.”

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