What lessons can we learn from the way in which the South African experience of transformative constitutionalism was invoked in Sri Lanka's recent constitutional reform experience? What conditions allow experiences of transformative constitutionalism to travel? In this article, I respond to these two questions, using Frankenberg's idea of a ‘layered approach’ in comparative constitutional law. My analysis affirms that in the comparative enterprise, a thick explanation that allows each experience to ‘speak for itself’ heightens the value of a comparative example. In the case of South Africa, I demonstrate that transformative constitutionalism is in fact a specific genre of constitutionalism. It demands attention not only to substantive constitutional guarantees and institutional design, but also to the process of constitutional reform. Moreover, effective measures for transitional justice are an essential component of transformative constitutionalism. A closer reading of the South African experience that paid attention to these factors would have led to better use of this experience in Sri Lanka's post-war constitutional governance.