Palagama Village, Sri Lanka

The Global Story Project, a project in partnership with Colorado State University and Sarvodaya International

In 2015, Dominica Zhu traveled to Sri Lanka with colleagues Taylor Clay and Bianca Anderson to document indigenous elders from the Palagama Village in Sri Lanka, a rural agricultural village that  sat a few hours outside of the city, Colombo. This project was done in partnership with Sarvodaya International, the largest development organization in the country whose network is rooted in 15,000 eco-villages and works to create collective peace and eradicate poverty through strong philosophies in spiritual tradition.

Dozens of interviews were conducted, recorded and preserved with the most crucial community leaders of this village, including its medicine people, spiritual leaders, artists. These interviews and recordings were shared back with Sarvodaya International to be protected and preserved.

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Palagama Village Sri Lanka
Learning and Recording with a serpent medicine physician (2015)

The days that followed remain vivid in my mind. Each day, the Sinhalese translator–– who grew to be a close friend––and I would walk forty-five minutes alongside rivers and through marshes to arrive at Sumanapala’s remote, tucked away home. He would greet us at the edge of his house with a few of his handwritten books in one arm and his grandchild in the other. His wife and daughter would frequent the small plastic table set up on the side of their home, silently smiling and curious about their new guests. The medical dictionaries he had written were filled with detailed pictures and diagrams of local snakes, plants, and venomous snake bites. 

Dominica Zhu, Founding Director
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