when flesh fades away all your left with memory of them
“ memory requires one to act In away that seeks in questions of both the divine and human covalent partners” ( Elie Wiesel : Night) ( an auto biographical book written by the author about his father and his life shared as a holocaust survivor)
Memorialization can be served under multitude of frame works. Contributing in facilitating reparations, truth telling ,documentation, reconciliation and as a mere dialogue between past, present and promise for future; as a being of instrumental , symbolic gesture. Yet with the amnesiac policies, principle, historicizing these subjects succumbed to chrono phage annihilations of its symbolic embodiment into a decorum of animosity.
Yet after many years of civil unrest in Sri Lanka reconciliation ,truth telling and healing has moved into subtractive agendas within the multitude of power plays . Violence sanitized by the state into modules of amnesia. Identities yet again served in the form of confused victim and perpetrator legitimacy . many assertions of new frameworks of this identity where the power holders change and decide who should be the victim and the perpetrator .Memorialization for transitional justice in Sri Lanka
Memorials are built according to agendas of power play . Memorials built of the past conveys victorious state military achievement , memorials of state victorious claim of humanistic military victory of the war. Memorials commemorating the departed L.T.T.E members ( “thuyam illam”/ “ home of illam”in kilinochchi) and civilians were destroyed or evicted .Memorials such as one built in jaffna university was demolished recently (2021 ) and state rebuilding a new module for a memorial that out plays their agenda of “ identity”. There is a massive plague of sanitation in north and eastern parts claiming new sites and areas as states own amplified archeological/ historical sites.
The 2019 occurrence of the Easter bomb attack in Sri Lanka( Islamic terrorist attack on Easter Sunday ) led to a new open ended dialogue on perpetrators and victims ( weighing towards active conspiracies upon xenophobic structures) . State once again leading the country in a mission of reinstating justice as well as igniting a new form of “ patriotism” as a mandatory act, into its usual pinpoint analogy of servitude .
Immediacy to build new memorials within the churches that were attacked occurred as a new element . The cacophony of newly formed commissions which carry out jurisdictions to the Easter attack hearing , turned into a mega serial in popular news telecasts by media stations . State yet again covering their tracks , diverging the truth and playing with the amnesiac attempt of sanitation. Human rights violations , reconciliation and justice to the families yet again perceived as a mere folly.reference images ://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1-ldO02Qc0PzgRZwV7u3lv-pX_meBmuOc?usp=sharing
My research and process embarks on a journey from the newly formed memorials within the Churches . How destroyed icons we’re reinstated in a form of archaic material/ objects within the Church. A newly formed museum structure, preservation of the traumatic incident added as a new embodiment within the architecture . These materials were reinstated as objects of newly reformed ontological presence of Anthropocene, memory, and identity
We believe these idols , broken tarnished forms to be negative omens. Hence they are placed , buried, abandoned in nukes and corners within sites of worshipping or under trees or so dumped into water bodies. My first encounter was when the candle seller of Kochchikade church ( one of the sites demolished during the Easter massacre ) ,gifted me the very first collection in hope of fixing them.
As an active tool how “memorialization” is been utilized for glorification, partial remembrance, identity depletion, part of amnesiac agendas and as pivotal sites/landmarks for historicizing ( these sites actively glorified after post war as touristic sites , which is been further elaborated part of “black tourism” (term coined for post war active tourism exuberance happened within Northern and Eastern parts of Sri Lanka).
Collecting idols from these sites , or idols abandoned from places that maps to past locality of 1989 JVP insurrection period’s torture camps “batalanda” ( during JVP insurrection period the state carried out a brutal wipe through , memorials were never built and the entire judicial justice system failed under political agendas) , sites from Jaffna . My process of collecting carries an anthropologist overview , selecting sediments and establishing new dialogue of their identity. Do these objects formulate their own democratic identity , there are questions of their archaic presence. A new identity that meticulously frames a dialogue upon “ the attempt of forgetting” . Heinous attempt of white washing and truth telling .
Yet these sculptures carry a new formation that interlayers a formation of identity universality and tradition. The introduction of embroidery, a form of ornamentation which is part of the southern ritualistic performance tradition. Under guidance and apprenticeship under artisan Somapala Pothupitiye and Contemporary artist Pala Pothupitiye. I have begun to research technicalities in ritual costume designing. The tradition also reveals many layers of my previous expeditions into folk performances in Southern parts of Sri Lanka.
“ ornament and crime” manifesto in which Adolf Loos reinterpretation ornamentation as a degeneration colonizing modern thought under disguise of purity, simplicity and reproduction and reinstating his position on “cultural superiority”
.ornamentation as a crime
“ Searching for my mother” is a series which began as a quest of inquiry to understand and revoke the role of matriarchy in the context of “ mother” in Sri Lanka. Through many layers it has been a constant struggle to understand misogynistic attempts that frame the notion “ mother”. Through my mothers memory as a key window opens new dialogues with history and identity structures of gender and sexuality in Sri Lanka .
Later on the work developed further with my urge to understand Sri Lanka’s cultural and identity blurred under its diverse history of performative studies. My encounter with southern ritualistic practices was its deep roots in these cultural diversities . Southern ritualistic art form has many lineages which connect back to the early dwellers of the island to Orissa, South Indian performance arts. It has constantly moved into embracing hybridity which could be seen later during colonial times.
Looking into “ southern performative tradition in Matara district” ( a coastal region in Sri Lanka) which is the longest deep rooted of the three provincial branches(Raygama, Bentara, Matara). Somapala Pothupitiya has been the last artisan(Navandanne or artisans whom has mastered nine skills ) of the lineage who works deeply still with ritualistic practices. My work embarks on a journey as his apprentice to understand this tradition and maybe create a dialogue to rediscover the past which is disappearing.
( In reference from the published book :Literature of curative rituals in Southern Sri Lanka , by Jayasena Kottegoda) Pahata rata (low country ,Southern portion of Sri Lanka )santikarma (curative rituals /also known as exorcist traditions )regarded as ritualistic practices which are ingrained further beyond the introduction of Buddhism into the country. Ancient tribe of Yakkhas(demons) engaging in ritualistic practices of co existing , worshipping the dead or yakkhas . Requesting positive impact , ailment , blessings from the divinity living within cosmic realms. These deities obey and respect Buddhism and preaching’s of Buddha (dhamma) . Hence we hear within the chanting recollecting the power of dhamma to banish or to subdue these entities and their effects.
The tovil (curative rituals ) , which are dying form of art within Sri Lanka (due to prevailing as inherent practices and lesser funds , support given by the state ) can defined under three separate categories. Yak Tovil ; to prevent harmful and evil acts by demons , Deva Tovil ; to invoke blessings of the deities and Bali Tovil to ward off adverse effects of the nine planets ( Nava graha , deities of cosmic realm) during periods of misfortune. The performers , Conductor ( called as Yaka dura, Kattadiya or Yak dessa ), Kapurala or pattini hami ( chief priest in Deva Tovil ), the conductor in charge of Bali Tovil is known as Bali Adhura,Bali gurunnase or Sittara gurunnase . Each performer wears a poignant dress code , attire which distinguish their roles. The ornate beaded textile traditions prevail heavily within the Matara sector of this traditon. The necklaces, jackets, waist bands, Kaagul (intricate crowns) adorns the performer as well as carry ritualistic symbolism of healing as well as patterns distinguish Dhamma and cosmology. Even though we witness some of these attributes in Raygama and bentara branches , there are many heavy variations .
These artisans falls back under the Karava caste or other lower castes according to the earlier prevailed feudal system. It was mandatory for the kings to support and create sustainability to these artistic practitioners; which caused for these families to continue these practices within inherent structural basis.
These intricate patterns create an embodiment of healing , cosmic connection to the debris collected . Reinstating their positioning for the futurity . Each stitch requires a certain precision of conservation of these objects. Making these objects create an ambiguity of , what has been historicized , what has been conserved in archives. These objects/debris embodies these ornate embroidery patterns ;which carries a psychotherapeutic healing , cosmic connection and breath of life. Reinstating their positions for the futurity. Each stitch requires a certain precision of requirement to create a sense of conservation , archiving . Making these sculptural forms carry within themselves an ambiguity of what has been symbolically historicized , what is been succumbed to the amnesiac decorum
sculptural forms installed within the space
St. Anthony’s Church, kochchikade, Colombo Seated idol from Dehiwela Medium: plaster of Paris, glass, glass beads , plastic beads, used tea filter paper Height:21 cm Length : 21 cm
St . Anthony’s Church, kochchikade, Colombo Medium: plaster of Paris, porcelain, glass beads, plastic beads, metal , human hair , used tea filter paper Height:23.5 cm Length: 25 cm
St. Anthony’s Church, kochchikade, Colombo Medium: plaster of Paris, glass beads, plastic beads, cotton cloth Height: 18.5 cm Length:28.5 cm
St Anthony’s Church , kochchikade, Colombo Medium: plaster of Paris , cotton, glass beads , plastic beads
St. Mary’s Church, Biyagama Medium: plaster of Paris , glass , cotton wool , glass beads , plastic beads , used tea filter paper Height : 17 cm
St. Anthony’s Church, kochchikade, Colombo Medium: plaster of Paris, glass , cotton, human hair , ceramic, metal, glass beads , plastic beads
St.Anthony’s Church, kochchikade, Colombo Vase found from Nuwara eliya, Sri Lanka Medium: porcelain, plaster of Paris, cotton wool, cotton cloth, glass beads, plastic beads, Japanese rice paper Height: 17.5 cm
Dutch Church , Jaffna fort , built by Portuguese in 1706 Medium: plaster of paris , glass beads, plastic beads Height: 40 cm
St. Anthony’s Church, kochchikade, Colombo Medium : plaster of Paris, transparent polythene cloth, glass beads, plastic beads , screen print ink , Japanese rice paper Height. 27.5 cm
at times they were the performers at times they were witnesses silently waiting
waiting until the end of times
waiting for the utopian decorum of justice
waiting when they could bid farewell to their absence
when flesh fades away all your left with memory of them