In 2009 T. Shanaathanan, who lives and works in Jaffna, was invited by Raking Leaves to conceive an artwork in the form of a book. His book project is one of two commissions the organization commissions, supports and publishes annually. The inspiration for T. Shanaathanan's project comes from the Dutch word for Land Registry, 'Thombu'. It's an unlikely source for a contemporary art work that explores the stories of displacement faced by Tamil-speaking civilians from the north. Yet on closer inspection the inspiration and use of Thombu is entirely relevant when one comes to look through the 'File document' of lands, properties and homes, the artist presents us with. With book in hand, the audience can turn through pages of drawings that include images showing ground plans of houses drawn from memory by people who have been displaced during the conflict. Excerpts of their experiences are printed in the book and form the basis of a drawing that the artist has created and placed at the start of each section of this extraordinary book, which has been designed to resemble a 'file document'. The Incomplete Thombu is a transpiring account of a situation that raises awareness about many topics related to the conflict presented in a form like no other.
Mismatches comprised of a series of 9 paintings that take the form of a jigsaw. ''The mismatch between one story and another can also be seen as the location of new found being and a space of becoming.'' says T. Shanaathanan. ''In these particular works I have made nine landscapes or locations depicting the Hindu cosmos of nine planets (the navagraha) in the form of nine jigsaw puzzle pieces. The pieces of the jigsaw represent experiences related to time, place and memory. However the form and the imagery that appears within a piece of jigsaw suggests too that these cannot be assembled as a unified whole. Like the individual stories that appear in The Incomplete Thombu, the single jigsaw piece represents the experience related to a particular moment or person, but as a whole they are in constant contradiction and tension created by the mismatches of realities.''