Stories of Kannagi

Stories of Kannagi (2020)

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Stories of Kannagi is a film project by Zanny Begg. It was initiated by Jiva Parthipan and created in collaboration with members of the Tamil community in Western Sydney. The film reimagines the 2000-year-old story of Kannagi, a young woman who is forced into exile by the misdeeds of her husband, yet defends him against injustice in their new homeland. When her husband is executed for a crime he did not commit Kannagi confronts the King – proving his innocence through a powerful speech.  

Stories of Kannagi (excerpt) from Zanny Begg on Vimeo.

Stories of Kannagi features three Tamil writers based in Australia, Niromi de Soyza, Shankari Chandaran and Srisha Sritharan, who also use language as a form of resistance to colonization. Niromi de Soyza is the author of Tamil Tigress, a memoir of her experiences as a child soldier in the Sri Lankan civil war; Shankari Chandran is the author of Song of the Sun God a three-generation saga across Sri Lanka and Australia; and Srisha Sritharan is a singer/songwriter. Stories of Kannagi explores the impact of colonization and civil war has had on Tami communities living outside of Sri Lanka by looking at interrelated issues of love, language and storytelling.


The winner of The Blake Established Artist Residency and Exhibition is Zanny Begg for the work Stories of Kannagi. This work, centred around the perspectives of three Sri Lankan, Tamil women is a luscious and celebratory portrayal of complex intersections between gender and evolving tradition. Here Begg has created a poignant portrait through the minds and words of three intergenerational women from a relatively unknown minority group. Issues around belief systems, bravery and cultural transpositions are interwoven with dramatized oral histories and vibrant, compelling bursts of speech by the three women. It is through intimate storytelling that we can truly understand the impact – and the overwhelming power of intergenerational impact – of displacement. Understanding storytelling threads through generations allows us to reflect on the ongoing impact of our own behaviour.

This significant Australian artist is known for the sensitivity and rigour embedded in her processes when working with various community groups and it is anticipated that the artists will greatly benefit from the strong, diverse community groups around the Casula area – 66th Blake Prize Judges: Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran, Maud Page and Kumi Taguchi.

In the Media:

Tamil Classic in The Blake Prize, IndiaLink News

Installation shot, Stories of Kannagi, Salamanca Arts Centre, Hobart, 2020.

Stories of Kannagi credits:

Rubi Balasingam
Shayan Rajendram
Ramesh Nithiyendran

Funded by Australia Council for the Arts and STARTTS.

A film by Zanny Begg, Creative Producer Jiva Parthipan.

Cinematography by Ella Gibbens, score by James Brown, sound design by Liam Egan, singing by Srisha Sritharan,  music by Jasmine Guffond and Kate Carr. Casting by Fiona Dann, First AD Rishi Montgomery, Second AD Tiansong Ling, Gaffa Nathan Grant and Richard Mason, 1st Camera Assistant Dane Howell, 2nd camera Assistant Justin Chau, Art Direction Zanny Begg, Grace Partridge, Producer Bhavna Lalwani ,Costumes Vishnugar Arunasalam, Make up Shahmen Suku, Sound Luke Stacey, Colourist Yanni Kronenberg.

With thanks to RJ Yalavan, Karthika Ganeson YAARL , Old Parramatta Goal, Elise Mcleod, YSA Arumugam, Eelan Elangovan , Sri Sritharan, Sujan Selven, Nina Miall, Kesiken Decor, Chamu Kuppuswamy, Nedra Rodrigo, Viji Dhayanathan