Great things people have said about us

Arundhati Roy

Author of God of Small Things

The story of the 2009 war in Sri Lanka in which tens of thousands of Tamil civilians were brazenly and brutally killed, is rapidly being buried by powerful countries with strategic and business interests in the region. This book [The Vanni] seeks to unbury those terrible, sordid secrets and place them in clear view for the world to see. I hope these few words of support will help this book to find its way into the world.

Jon Snow

Newscaster. Channel 4 News

The Vanni is by any standards an important project. A significant voice in the call for truth and justice over the appalling war crimes which marked the awful end of the war in Sri Lanka. But what makes it particularly important is that it is told by a man who was there – a man who both cares about what happened, and understands how important it is that it never happens again. I urge everyone to support this project in whatever way they can.

Meena Sonea Hewett

Executive Director. Harvard South Asia Institute

The Vanni carefully conveys a narrative of violence through a non-violent medium that is accessible to all. Through creative images, authenticating life experiences, the novel is grounded in expert knowledge of first-hand witness to the Sri Lankan Civil War Legacy. The unusual way of presenting this story is a powerful educational tool, taking a difficult topic to teach and understand, and making it comprehensible to all audiences.

Annie Kelly

Commissioning Editor. The Guardian. Global Development. Modern-Day Slavery

PositiveNegatives effectively humanised the complex and sensitive personal story of trafficking through the medium of the graphic novel in a thought provoking and emotive manner. It has been a pleasure to work with PositiveNegatives who have been dedicated and attentive throughout the production of Abike’s Story that was published in The Guardian online and in The Observer.

Nazia Hussain

Director at Home in Europe Project. The Open Society Foundations

The language around displacement and refugees has become stubbornly polarising. PositiveNegatives convey and humanise the situation of asylum seekers and refugees through the graphic novel in a thought provoking and heart tugging manner. Their dedication and commitment to highlighting the plight of the displaced is inspiring and serves to remind us of the complexities and reasons that drive people to flee their homes. It has been a pleasure to work with PositiveNegatives from inception to completion of the Open Society Foundations ‘Meet the Somalis’ illustrations, a set of stories that capture the emotions and challenges of settling and being accepted into a new home.

Dr Laura Hammond

Head of Development Studies. School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). University of London

Almaz makes for uncomfortable, but important, viewing. The experiences of many migrant domestic workers in Saudi Arabia are hidden from the public eye. Almaz's story shows the multiple layers of injustice - humiliation, deprivation of wages, physical and sexual abuse, isolation, and overwork - that unfortunately are commonly experienced by women who have come to Saudi Arabia in an effort to support their families.

Stephane Mayoux

BBC Africa. Editor. Focus on Africa TV, Dira TV

I recently worked with PositiveNegatives on the Hooked project - a story on drug trade and addiction in Guinea-Bissau, told through cartoons over five daily episodes shown on BBC News Online and BBC World's Focus on Africa. Ben is a top class professional and exceptional human being. His ethics, his values and his courage feed his work at PositiveNegatives; he has clearly decided to put real people at the heart of his research and journalism work. He feels accountable to them first. That decision gives his content genuine depth. He has been resilient, flexible, attentive and totally dedicated to transform a concept into a unique and exciting story-telling experience. I feel under his leadership, PositiveNegatives is bound to create many more benchmark-setting comic strips. I look forward to working with him again very soon

Cindy Horst

Research Director, Research Professor. Migration and Refugee Studies. Peace Research Institute Oslo

PositiveNegatives manage to touch hearts by making the consequences of violence and conflict visible in new ways. Ways that readers and viewers can relate to even if what they see is something many would prefer not to know. The asylum seekers and refugees we meet, fleeing from death by neighbours and carrying their many painful memories with them, are also husbands, son-in-laws, mothers, sisters, grandsons... We can relate to them as human beings, even when we'd rather not see our shared humanity.

Jesse Hardman

Professor, City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism

PositiveNegatives has found a compelling way to express the complexity of the refugee experience through exhaustively researched narratives brought to life in illustration. In doing so they have taken human rights stories, often difficult to digest for the general public, and made them accessible.

Dr Michael Collyer

Reader in Geography (Sussex Centre for Migration Research, Geography, International Development). University of Sussex

Almaz's story will be sadly familiar to anyone concerned with the human rights of migrant workers. The format used to relate this story will be much less familiar. The power of the simply drawn images and sparse narrative communicates this story of horrendous abuse with the immediacy that it deserves. It will hopefully ensure that stories such as this reach a much greater audience and the demands for more effective protection measures for domestic workers find more powerful voice.

Frances Harrison

Author of Still Counting the Dead and Ex-BBC Foreign Correspondent in Sri Lanka, Iran, Malaysia, Bangladesh and Pakistan

PositiveNegatives is doing completely new things with drawn and recorded images and new technology and using the mix to tell important but largely ignored stories to a new audiences. It's a simple but compelling way of rendering a morally complex story. Human rights groups and journalists should watch with interest and learn how to engage people in issues that too often seem remote.

Dr Dacia Viejo Rose

Lecturer in Archaeology (Cultural Heritage). University of Cambridge

Nearly sixty years since the ratification of the “Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery” (1956) this affront to human dignity continues to be all too common, as Almaz’s experience makes poignantly clear. Through illustrations, her story is told in a way that is unambiguous and in a format that will hopefully reach a wide audience and help fire demands to respect and enforce the Convention.

Luis Fonseca

Bureau Chief. Lusa and RTP. Guinea-Bissau

Most of the population of Guinea-Bissau is analphabetic. And even among those who know how to read and write, very few open a book, a newspaper, a magazine or spend time reading online articles. Radio rules. In this scenario, how do you manage to make printed information notorious and go hand in hand? You tell the same story with images. Telling a story with images bridges a gap that otherwise would make valuable information unusable for the communities. Reading will be easy. The drawings will make it attractive. And results will come. In this case, “Hooked” can play an important role in preventing drug consumption, by showing to younger people, in schools, what might happen if one tries “crack cocaine”. “Hooked” can trigger debate and make communities aware of the problem.

Andrei Gómez-Suárez

Lecturer at the University of Los Andes (Bogotá, Colombia) and Associate Researcher at the Universities of Oxford and Sussex (England)

PositiveNegatives is a radically original, transformative, and inspiring organisation. The stories and comics help the general public grasp the complexity associated with human suffering in conflict-torn societies by highlighting in images the drama associated with poverty, displacement, torture, human trafficking, and sexual violence. PositiveNegatives affective power is based on in-depth research with the victims of violence, through which it unveils survival and resistance strategies and cross-border processes intertwined with apparently local dynamics. I believe PositiveNegatives is changing the way scholars and practitioners of global politics approach and talk about human suffering and will unleash creative ways to address the issues related with conflict-torn communities which are closer to us than we think.

David Woods

Director. La Chataigneraie International School. Geneva

Helping young people understand complex issues happening in parts of the world remote - in every sense - from their own lives is very challenging. Graphic novels are a great way to do this. Through PositiveNegatives carefully crafted age-appropriate presentations and discussions based on his novels, Ben was able to lead our students to an understanding and empathy with the subjects and characters of the stories that no other medium could do. We will certainly be inviting Ben again - both for his novels but also as a role model in creative social entrepreneurialism.

Liv Torres

General Secretary. Norsk Folkehjelp

The full story of the 2009 war in Sri Lanka has largely been ignored by the global press and international society. PositiveNegatives is telling the story to a new audience and simultaneously telling it in new ways to the few that already knew it. Tens of thousands of Tamil civilians were killed in a conflict, which left unreparable damage to Sri Lanka, but also to the international community´s reputation for protection of human rights. The Vanni needs to be heard in order to avoid it happening again.

Raminder Kaur

Professor of Anthropology and Cultural Studies, University of Sussex

There have been many ‘genocides’ that have been ignored and where justice has become a chequered hope. Remembering those whose lives and livelihoods have been uprooted and whose families have been slaughtered, separated and traumatised is the first step to taking account of these great betrayals of the dignity of a right to a peaceful life. Capturing it in visuals is another way and here in this brilliant synthesis of personal testimonies, photographic document and graphic recreations is a fiction that is wonderfully imagined as much as it hits on a raw nerve about actual events. The Vanni translates a thoughtful analysis of the civil war into an unforgettable story that hits the heart. It deserves everyone’s support.

Cynthia Caron

Assistant Professor, International Development and Social Change, Clark University

PositiveNegatives work is a nuanced account of the complex dynamics that characterise international migration. Their work highlights the personalised experience of individuals as they navigate new environments, establish new and maintain pre-existing networks, and come to terms with a past that is ever present. The attention to narrative combined with graphic images are a powerful account that forces a rethinking of key concepts such as community, citizenship, and governance in the 21st century.

www.migrant-rights.org

A Gulf-based organisation working on migrant rights issues

Through 'Almaz', PositiveNegatives visualise the real and all too common experiences of migrant domestic workers (MDW) in Saudi Arabia; based on the account of a former Ethiopian domestic worker. The main character, Almaz endures a spectrum of physical and emotional abuses that encapsulates MDW’s isolation and vulnerability to malicious employers. The illustrations creatively and critically amplify the often invisible narratives of the millions of MDWs in Saudi and the wider Gulf region.

Roma Tearne

Author of The Road To Urbino

The graphic novel when well done is a highly charged medium of concentrated information in relatively few words and memorable images. The Vanni is one such novel, presenting the haunting, powerful story of displacement that followed a brutal conflict in the almost forgotten corner of the world called Sri Lanka.

Callum Macrae

Journalist and Film-maker. Director of Sri Lanka's Killing Fields and No Fire Zone

The Vanni is a wonderful project. Terrible war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed by Sri Lankan government forces at the end of the Sri Lankan civil war. The men who are responsible for those crimes are still in power. This has been said before, but it is worth repeating: Without justice there can be no peace, and without truth there can be no justice. This book will, I believe, be a vital part of that truth-telling. It deserves all our support.

Anonymous, London

Survivor of the Sri Lankan Conflict

I am happy to see an emotional yet honest publication that gives an insight into Vanni. Thank you for such a meaningful and in-depth creation. The illustrations complement the text perfectly and emphasise the need for awareness of the massacre that occurred in 2009 in Sri Lanka. I hope this piece of work will open the eyes of the international community and to bring justice for the people who lost their lives in this war.

Laura Farrell

Hampton School. London

Benjamin Dix presented to our Year 9 geography students at Hampton School. He gave a truly inspirational and engaging presentation on the conflicts in Sri Lanka and Somalia and the affects they are having on the civilians. He focused predominantly from the perspective of asylum seekers here in the UK, making it more relatable to the students. He impressively brought the stories to life through his graphic novel and showed the students the methodology involved in creating such art. Benjamin made sensitive and complex issues accessible to 13 and 14 year old students and presented it in a way that captured their attention.

Anonymous, London

Young Tamil survivor of the Sri Lankan conflict

I am really happy of your hard work for us Vanni peoples. Graphic is wonderful idea. Easy to understand the problem everyone. Every single line telling lots of Tamil peoples story in Vanni war. You have carefully done this research and state the truth. As a Tamil women I am great full to you. Lindsay Pollock really very good artist. Perfect work Lindsay every picture telling real story. This graphic novel is one of the evidence for our war life. Thank you so much for the wonderful work Ben and Lindsay. Keep going.

Reina Neufeldt

Assistant Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies. Conrad Grebel University College

Students in my university course, The Quest for Peace in Literature and Film, were transfixed by Benjamin Dix’s presentation on the end of war events in northern Sri Lanka in 2009, Dix’s personal story, as well as the proposed content and format of the Vanni project. Dix’s attention to the ethics of how we tell stories and the interactive format of the on-line graphic novel succeeded in engaging the imagination of students on issues of trauma, violence, and survival.

Beate Arnestad

Filmmaker. Director of My Daughter the Terrorist and Silenced Voices; Tales of Sri Lankan Journalists in Exile

Atrocities committed by governments still occur with distressing frequency and leave in their wake abiding memories of intolerable pain that cripples lives and whole societies. It is even more intolerable when the world seems to ignore the mayhem ever took place. That is why this poignant graphic account is so important. The Vanni is well researched and the brilliant illustrations elucidate the immense horror and bring the crimes as experienced by the individual survivors close to the reader’s heart and mind.

Baroness Valerie Amos

Delivering complex theoretical information in a medium that is not just understandable, but also builds empathy, is a difficult task. PositiveNegatives and their new charity, Why Comics? manages this through their interactive comics, embedded with contextual multimedia. They manage to tell the human stories behind the conflicts and refugee situations we see across the world. Bringing these topics into schools is important given the current socio-political climate. The Why Comics? educational resources encourage students to engage with and learn about contemporary world events and human rights issues

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