Grants:Project/Tamil Wikimedia-Noolaham Foundation/Multimedia Documentation of Traditional Trades and Crafts of Eastern, Northern and Up-Country Sri Lanka/Midpoint

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Project Grants This project is funded by a Project Grant

proposal people timeline & progress finances midpoint report

Report accepted
This midpoint report for a Project Grant approved in FY 2017-18 has been reviewed and accepted by the Wikimedia Foundation.


The Multimedia Documentation of Traditional Trades and Crafts of Eastern, Northern and Up-Country Sri Lanka project has covered 11 trades and crafts to date as part of an in-depth multimedia documentation. We have completed field documentation for four of the crafts. Partial field documentation has been undertaken for five crafts (~1200+ images, 20-25 hours of video, and 15 oral histories). More than 55 field documentation visits were conducted. The original media from this fieldwork has been uploaded to Google drives for processing and post-production. Three documentaries are currently in various stages of production ( Pottery, Coir Work ). In addition to the 11 crafts chosen for in-depth documentation, we have also covered three other crafts. The majority of this work was undertaken in the Upcountry and the East, which are traditionally under-represented areas of Sri Lanka. Some of the multimedia documentation has been directly uploaded to Wiki Commons.

We conducted workshops in Trincomalee (East), Batticaloa (East) and Hatton (Upcountry). These workshops were attended by more than 100 people. Through these workshops and local outreach, we were able to build two volunteer teams interested in crafts and trades documentation. Our focus has included capacity building in multimedia documentation and Wikipedia projects.

An overview of our activity can be seen here.

Methods and Activities[edit]

Background research and guide development[edit]

Initial background research was conducted to catalog and develop a template and toolkit for the multimedia documentation of the trades and crafts. Following this, a draft literature review with references related to trades and crafts was developed.

Trades and crafts catalog[edit]

Using short descriptions, we catalogued about 30 trades and crafts that are practiced in the Tamil-speaking regions of Sri Lanka. These also include some of the traditionally practiced crafts that have now disappeared.

Information Collection Template[edit]

On the basis of our initial research, we developed a template that researchers, fieldworkers and Wikipedia editors can use in the in-depth documentation and dissemination of a trade or craft. In addition, Infobox Craft-and-Trade.

Craft documentation guide[edit]

We developed a craft documentation guide that consciously list the steps in documenting a craft or trade.

Fieldwork guide[edit]

A general fieldwork guide was developed by Prof. Balasundaram. This guide provides guidelines recommendations with respect to how to plan for fieldwork, issues to consider when interviewing, privacy considerations etc.

Project plan and design[edit]

This project has evolved through many Skype conference calls and in-person meetings with the local and diaspora team members over the past year.

We envisioned using a community-centred, collaborative approach. Partly planned but partly organic, the project itself developed into a co-creative process of documentation through continuous conversations and feedback.

Some of our Skype conference calls were recorded, and the minutes of the meetings can be found here


Our outreach work primarily focused on creating awareness about Wikimedia projects in general, and specifically, about this project on trades and crafts. Using existing and building new community networks, we carried out various outreach activities to engage and connect community members.

The outreach work was carried out in two stages. First, semi-informal meetings were organized by team members in Colombo and in several parts of the Upcountry, as follows:

  • Matale (June 2017) - 5 participants, including community workers and teachers.
  • Kandy (June 2017) - 10 participants, including university lecturers and students.
  • Colombo (July 2017) - 12 participants, including teachers, community workers, and journalists.
  • Bogawantalawa (July 2017) - 25 participants, including a school principal, teachers, students and folk theatre artists.
  • Lindula (July 2017) - 20 participants, including folk theatre artists, dancers, singers, performance artists, community leaders, and teachers.
  • Kotagala (July 2017) - 5 participants, including an archivist and community workers.

These early meetings were focused on information gathering and establishing contacts within each community, including those which are quite remote. We provided an introduction to Wikimedia and to the documentation of trades and crafts initiative. The goal was to engage and mobilize community members for the long-term, beyond the duration of this project, to catalyze sustained documentation of their communities as these evolve. We also wanted to provide informal multimedia production training that would enable them to do this documentation from their own perspectives.

In addition to these in-person meetings, we also held other meetings via phone and Skype conference calls. Secondly, further formal outreach was carried out through organized workshops and subsequent meetings.  


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We conducted three workshops in three major towns in Sri Lanka:

Upcountry workshop - Hatton[edit]

A day-long workshop was held in the central Upcountry town of Hatton in August 2017 and was attended by about 40 participants. It was organized by a team of volunteers from the Upcountry, and the workshop sessions were conducted by long-term Tamil Wikipedians from the East. The topics covered in the workshop ranged from Wikipedia projects to fieldwork documentation and archiving methods. The details of the workshop and photographs of the event can be found here.

North East workshop - Trincomalee[edit]

விக்கிப்பீடியா – நூலகம் இணைந்து ஹட்டனில் பயிற்சிப் பட்டறை - 15.jpg

A half-day workshop was held in the North Eastern town of Trincomalee in November 2017 and was attended by about 30 participants. It was organized by a team of volunteers from the East and North East, and the workshop sessions were conducted by long-term Tamil Wikipedians from the East. The topics covered in the workshop ranged from Wikipedia projects to fieldwork documentation and archiving methods. The details of the workshop and photographs of the event can be found here.

East Workshop - Batticaloa[edit]

A half-day workshop was held in the Eastern town of Batticaloa in March 2018 and was attended by about 40 participants. It was organized by a team of volunteers from the East, and the workshop sessions were conducted by long-term Tamil Wikipedians from the East. The topics covered in the workshop ranged from Wikipedia projects to fieldwork documentation and archiving methods. The details of the workshop and photographs of the event can be found here.

It is also important to note that Upcountry and Eastern parts of Sri Lanka have been traditionally overlooked and under-represented when the culture and heritage of the country has been documented, and thus we placed particular emphasis on addressing this gap.

Team building[edit]

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Through these outreach activities, we were able to identify interested volunteers and to form two teams: an Upcountry team and an Eastern team.

The Upcountry team conists of seven active contributors including Thanabalasingam, Indraselvan, Vijayakanthan, Lunugala Sri, Jeyaprasad, Jeyakumar and Thivagaran.

The Eastern team consists of five active contributors including Prasad, Thivaharan, Mithursan, Sivakumar and Nilaxan.

These two teams co-create and coordinate their own work.

Capacity building[edit]

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Through workshops, and one on one sessions, experts are able to provide guidance to young or novice contributors in a range of areas including wiki editing, oral history recording and documentary making. Feedback is via audio calls as well as via email and WhatsApp messages. An example of a detailed feedback about documentary making can be found here. We are hoping to develop this into a general guide about documentary making.

Field Documentation and Processing[edit]

  • We conducted more than 55 field works. The output of this work is only partially available in Wiki Commons right now. Majority of the raw files have been uploaded to various google accounts for processing. These accounts are private for now, but can be accessed by contacting project co-coordinators. Documentaries as result of this work are under production: Pottery, Coir Work.
  • Volunteers are able to contribute to this project on weekends, on school holidays, off time etc. We are only reimbursing costs (i.e travel, food) associated with specific field works. This is a change of methodology from the anticipated monthly reimbursement outlined in the project plan. This methodology ensures that the funds are cost effectively used

Example Output[edit]


No Item Description Cost (LKR)
1 Workshop Upcountry Workshop 42,873
2 Workshop Trincomalee Workshop 25,800
3 Workshop Batticaloa Workshop 19,025
4 Field Visits & Multimedia Documentation 57 Field Works 182,040
5 Storage, Backup and Stationary 2 TB hard drives x 2, 1 laptop replacement hard drive 43,700
6 Storage, Backup and Stationary Internet Router rental 8,052
7 Storage, Backup and Stationary Skype calls expenses 18,360
Total LKR 339,850
  • A good quality camera (LKR 68,500) was purchased by the Upcountry project team with contribution from others. It is not included here as camera equipment was not part of the original proposed budget.
  • Noolaham Foundation's accountant staff time is not included in the above budget.

We have spent the funds with careful consideration. Of the total LKR 731,695 amount disbursed for the project todate, we have used LKR 339,850. LKR 391,845 remains of the disbursed amount. In the proposal we suggested that we may pay a monthly diem. As volunteers were not able to commit for such long duration of time, we changed that to per diem per field visit. Field work per diem is usually LKR 1500 or USD 10 per volunteer. This is mainly to cover travel and food expenses.

Lessons Learned[edit]

  • We initially assumed that several focused months of work can be undertaken. However, as this work is carried out by volunteers, they are only able to go on field work during weekends, on school or university holidays etc. This has increased the duration of the project. As noted above, the cost of each field work (i.e travel, food) is reimbursed, thus we are effectively utilizing the funds.
  • The time it took for the workshops as well as outreach work was much longer than we anticipated. This has extended the project timeline as well.
  • There were several delays in getting equipment to Upcountry. As we did not request any project funds for equipment, it has been a challenge to allocate equipment to all regions at the same time. The volunteers eventually raised funds to purchase camera and related equipment for Upcountry.
  • We initially started with a big team meetings. This was hard to manage. Focusing on building regional teams who can more or less self-govern has been more helpful.
  • We spent considerable expenses on long distance calls in connecting with people who were not accessible via skype calls.
  • WhatsApp became an important communication and interaction forum as opposed to wiki as many people were more comfortable using WhatsApp.
  • Objectives of this projects include outreach and capacity building in Upcountry and East. Towards these objectives, we have accommodated some changes to scope of the content (i.e including some folkarts documentation) covered by this project. This content will be in addition to our base target.


  • Uploading became a major issue for us. It remains an issue. Uploading a large set of videos and images from East and Upcountry has been difficult due to low Internet availability. We mitigated this issue by making use of a university internet connection (via a university staff member) and by getting an additional router for one of the volunteers. Some volunteers still encounter this issue. The major lesson here is that we need to have clear uploading mechanism and shorten the upload cycle. Otherwise we risk loosing the materials to hardware failure or other risk factors. We almost lost works of several field work sessions due to hardware failure.
  • Uploading large videos to Wiki Commons remains as challenge. We have reached out to Asaf, who said he may be able to upload large videos made available from google drives.
  • We do not have adequate access to document some crafts and trades. For instance, tea making could not be fully documented due to trade secret issues.
  • There are some risk factors that we are unable to disclose publicly.

What is working well[edit]

  • We are happy with the formation of two teams in East and Upcountry interested in crafts documentation as well as wider cultural heritage documentation. This is what we hoped for and it is really nice to see that materialize.
  • We are able to develop the expertise and carry out field documentation needed for this project. Field documentation can be challenging and resource intensive. However, field documentation is critical for developing media and resources on focused subject areas.
  • It takes several field work trips to cover a single craft or trade. We have already conducted twice the number of field works as originally planned. To our positive surprise, volunteers are very engaged in the field works.
  • We are happy with the output we have produced via field work.

Next steps and opportunities[edit]

  • Jaffna Team - We have focused on Upcountry and East todate. We have not held any workshop or undertaken any major outreach work in the North. Conducting a workshop, and forming a team in the North is a major next step for this project. We are planning 1 - 2 indepth craft documentation work in the North.
  • Processing and Uploading - We have the field documentation data in the Google drives. We need to select, edit if needed and upload this material to Wiki Commons. We are aiming for 3 - 5 edited documentary works as well.
  • Wiki Articles - Based on the field documentation output, complimented by additional background research, article will be created/extended in Tamil Wikipedia. Though several of the team members are skilled in editing wiki, we need to provide additional training. Further engagement with committed volunteers and the extended Tamil Wikipedia community is needed as well.
  • We have the teams as well as the expertise as originally envisioned to complete this work. We will need some accommodation from the Wikimedia Foundation with respect to timeline to complete this work.
  • If the project timeline permits, we would be able to cover additional crafts and trades indepth. All teams are interested in extending this framework to other areas such as performing arts, folk arts, cultural heritage etc.

Grantee reflection[edit]

We’d love to hear any thoughts you have on how the experience of being an grantee has been so far. What is one thing that surprised you, or that you particularly enjoyed from the past 3 months?