EU National Institutes for Culture - EUNIC

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka
Colomboscope - On Language and Multitudinal Belonging
The Walking Island by Danish artist Søren Dahlgaard is a public happening inviting participants to encounter and engage with his artistic project: an inflatable island along the beach. The performative action includes collective movements with the sculpture to bring attention to marine ecology that surrounds us. Colomboscope Sea Change, Interdisciplinary Arts Festival, 2019
Photo: Sanjaya Mendis
Highlights from online art projects under #HeldApartTogether and #EssentialServices on Facebook and Instagram
Three-day residential workshop for visual artists and contemporary cultural practitioners in the Gampola area from 19-21 October, 2019. EUNIC Sri Lanka, the EU Delegation in Colombo and Fold Media Collective are teaming up for the project “On Language and Multitudinal Belonging”, which consists of preliminary activities leading up to the next Colomboscope edition "Language is Migrant" in 2021.
Photo: Colomboscope Team
Artist Omer Wasim during one of his trips to discover the Sri Lankan cultural scene, as part of the Tandem Art Residency programme.
Photo: Colomboscope Team

The lead-up to the next Colomboscope festival, including professional development workshops, mentoring circles, and in-tandem residencies across four regions in Sri Lanka.

Across Sri Lanka, artists face a constant struggle to maintain a professional livelihood in the cultural sector due to lack of public funding, accessible arts libraries and open-source archives. The festival Colomboscope offers opportunities for creative producers to have a horizontal exchange on creative questions as well as topics of socio-political urgency.

The theme for the next edition of the Colomboscope festival is 'Language is Migrant'. Organised by Fold Media Collective - a local team of creative producers, designers and curators - initiatives in the lead-up to the festival include professional development workshops, mentoring circles, and in-tandem residencies across four regions in Sri Lank, most of them brought forward under the European Spaces of Culture framework.

Bringing together contemporary cultural practices that investigate local and global phenomena, works being produced during the project range from film, installation, creative publishing and performance poetry. Local audiences can see the developments of the artworks through regional open studios, and they will also feature in Colomboscope 2021.

Tandem residencies

Tandem residencies bring together European and South Asian artists, as well as groups of local artists, to explore social dynamics, repressed histories and communal story telling. These tandem residencies will develop artistic projects through field research, social analysis and modes of narrative building. Some of the works produced as a result of the residencies will become accessible to semi-urban publics through open studio formats in the local region and then travel to Colomboscope festival 2021. Intermedial artist and ‘Language Is Migrant’ participant Omer Wasim has joined a tandem residency with Sri Lankan artist Thisath Thoradeniya, enabling a conversation and artistic exchange lasting the entire month of April 2021. A second residency with Aziz Hazara will follow.

The programme of the residencies includes an Open Studio event that will invite local audience groups to enter into dialogue with local artists, a visit from Colomboscope curator Natasha Ginwala and showcasing of the outcome at the Colomboscope festival.

Professionalisation workhops

A series of workshop for local emerging artists and creative producers are part of the project in the context of the actions for the professionalisation of the local cultural sector across Sri Lanka and South Asia.

The festival Colomboscope offers opportunities for creative producers to have a horizontal exchange on creative questions as well as topics of socio-political urgency.

Forensic Approaches to Visual Arts Workshop: 'Politics of Listening' led by Lawrence Abu Hamdan (June, July 2020)
The workshop was organised for a small group of artists and collaborators in Sri Lanka invested in learning from forensic approaches to the visual arts and extending inquiries at the cross-section of media, investigative tools and sonic practices as well as documenting histories of repression and dissent through acts of witnessing. Between physical and virtual interactions, the sessions turned out to be considered exercises in sharing ideas traversing political geographies, ongoing research processes, and cross-disciplinary learning.

As most of us in the workshop were from an independent artist collective that work in a loosely collaboratively way, and have shared interests, it was very helpful to be part of something like this together, which strengthened and gave more substance and direction to our collective work.

Bookmaking and self-publishing Workshop with artist and publisher Jason Dodge (January 2021)
This workshop was organised together with publisher Jason Dodge, who shared and discussed his experiences and techniques of bookmaking and publishing with a diverse audience from all around the world. From how to maximise offset formats, to folding thousands of pieces of paper by hand, and why he started his poetry imprint “Five hundred Places” in 2012. Participants were invited to share their own projects and ideas, creating an environment of mutual exchange. The session took place in a hybrid format, for a diverse audience from all over the world.

A third professionalization workshop with literary and sound artist Belinda Zhawi will take place in April 2021.

We Are From Here

The Community Project 'We Are From Here' focuses on religious tolerance, minority history telling and inter-faith solidarity, aiming at archiving oral testimonies and objects witnessing and exemplifying the urban trans-formation process and corresponding displacement in the multiethnic neighbourhood Slave Island.

The focus of this activity shifted towards the group’s experiences in relation to the current pandemic situation, as the community of Slave Island has been Covid-19 high risk zone and put been under a strict lockdown for several weeks. The outcome of this activity will be showcased around mid April 2021, including a publicly accessible archive.

Digital Programme

In response to the Covid-19 reality, the project team launched a series of small online art projects under #HeldApartTogether and #EssentialServices on all Colomboscope (social) media channels.
The series features previews of works of 19 local and international artists that are part of the Colomboscope festival network, alongside small personal accounts of how they are affected, influenced and inspired by the lockdown reality. These online productions also open a window into the artistic community’s present struggles and activities in communal resilience.

A Thousand Channels

A Thousand Channels is a series of online radio episodes and collaborative programming featuring conver-sations, poetry, specially commissioned sound works and guest radio projects led by Syma Tariq which will be a vibrant and polyphonous platform leading up to and during the 2021 Colomboscope festival. The first episode has been launched on 17 March 2021.

Colomboscope - On Language and Multitudinal Belonging as European Space of Culture

The jury was of the opinion that the project offers an innovative way of combining cultural disciplines in order to promote values of freedom and cohesion and was convinced of the clear project delivery plan as well as the elaborated relevance to the local context. The project is based on local needs and experience, is co-developed and co-owned by partners with clear goals to reaching out to a number of smaller local partners and is built on active and inclusive roles of all the partners. Even though the project is based on an existing festival, the selection committee saw ample potential of creating new partnerships and reaching out to new and vulnerable audiences. The committee considered the project as a potentially strong model to use culture as means for promoting freedom and understanding.

Colomboscope is one of the very rare platforms to bring together people from all artistic fields. Taking part provides a springboard to more partnerships, across the island.

Model of collaboration

The collaboration leans on a long-grown structure: the collaboration evolved over seven years. Programming and curating are led by a local project management team (Fold Media Collective). The establishment of a local team has strengthened the permanent structure of the project. EU partners give directions, advice, resources, and security in a challenging political context. EUNIC funding gives stability, allowing the project to expand geographically and throughout the year. The local team briefs all partners in regular meetings on outreach, venues, design, curation. The EU partners give advice and share resources. Local partners and EU partners are seen as equal.

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Co-funded by the European Union Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Education and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA). Neither the European Union nor EACEA can be held responsible for them.