Founded in Jaffna in 1965, The Centre for Performing Arts is Sri Lanka's longest standing organisation using arts for peacebuilding. The centre focuses on the performing arts as a method for conflict resolution, healing and promoting co-existence and mutual cooperation between people from different ethnic and religious backgrounds. Because of their unique method of approaching peacebuilding, the Centre were able to spread from Jaffna to all other areas of the country. At present there are more than 25 centres in different parts of the Sri Lanka, speaking both Sinhala and Tamil.
The Centre has different peacebuilding programmes designed for different age groups, addressing the main issues felt under each age bracket. For example, they encourage women to use performance as a way of expressing their unique experiences of conflict. With children, they use more games and music to get them together with other children from different ethnic and religious origins. The Centre makes use of music, dancing and drama to support people’s expression of conflict, facilitate healing and encourage them to listen to each other. Another approach of theirs is to re-tell historic stories according to the present context. They relate old epics like Ashoka and Ramayanaya with which are all familiar in Sri Lanka, telling them in a way that brings out the destruction of war and the suffering of people belonging to all races as a result. The Centre promotes human rights and democracy through their practices.
The organisation itself incorporates ethno-religious diversity and harmony. They have staff from all the different ethnicities in the country and has developed a reputation as a fair and unbiased organisation. As such, they have been able to move freely between the North-East and the South even during the times of conflict and today, in times of peace, their activities are are even more prolific.