Week 4: Present in Colombo, plan and produce

Week 4 – I present my artistic practice to performing arts students at the University of Colombo.  We spend a day extending our visas and visit Pettah Market.

Week 4: Mon 6 – 12 Mar 2017

හුග කාලෙකින් දක්කෙ (huga kālekin dakke) – Long time no see.

As the end of the fourth week approaches I am focussed on preparing for public performances.  I have a better understanding of the local culture and the people who will be the audience for the eclectic avant garde finale event planned during the final days of the Suramedura residency.

Sunbeach and Sri Lanka have become my home for now.

Day 19 (of 39) Sun 5 Mar – Hikkaduwa
Today I work on my 15- 20 minute presentation for this week’s trip to the University of Colombo.  We will have an interpreter and are advised to use the visit to raise awareness of our practice and encourage students to attend our final performance.
For Bajaw flyer feat. SumaraA beach party we attend at Rainbow features Sunara a Sri Lankan DJ who plays a blend of atmospheric and brooding minimal techno. We meet poets Sav, Ohan and Richard from Stageless Arts and Sarah Hannan who handles the PR for the residency.

Day 20 Mon 6 Mar
I ask myself if I am working hard enough, am I making the best of this opportunity? So I spend most of the day organising my materials,  preparing for tomorrow’s Coir switch rope potstand drum from Sri Lankapresentation and packing for the two day trip to Colombo.

This image left shows coir rope, pot stands and cane switches used by school teachers to discipline children!  The silver rope is recycled from plastic, and I couldn’t resist the little drum.


University of Colombo presentation

Day 21 Tue 7 Mar – Colombo
We travel to the University of Colombo by minibus, we are very late due to the driver collecting us from Sunbeach ninety minutes after the scheduled time. But this is quite acceptable here and turning up on time is hardly expected.

Presentation at the University of Colombo

Each of us take turns to talk to the performing art students and senior faculty staff.  I present a summary of my background, my inspiration, why I set up CultureMix and what we do.

Drum demonstration at the University of Colombo Sri Lanka

I show the CultureMix Review film and explain the history of steel pan finishing with my plans for the residency before taking questions. Most are curious about the steel pans.

Drums used for Kandyan dance at the University of ColomboI get to see some of the percussion and drums used for the Kandyan Dance taught at this faculty, with a demonstration from one of the music lecturers.

Hot, exhausted and satisfied that we have completed this important mission we treat ourselves to a cool crush and a spot of shopping before freshening up at our city hotel.

The evening is relaxed with a delightful dinner at The Gallery Café followed by a sociable soiree with the poets.

View of Galle Road from my Colombo Hotel balcony.
View of Galle Road from my Colombo Hotel balcony.

Visa rant

Day 22 Wed 8 Mar – Colombo
Today we endure the tortuous procedure of extending our short stay visas at The Department of Immigration and Emigration.  It takes an excruciating five hours from having your picture taken to the return of your stamped passport.

I wish I could say something more positive about the protracted and expensive process that harks back to Colombo’s colonial heritage.  But updating a visa seems to be unnecessarily archaic, with a departmentalised system manually administrated in triplicate by an army of visa officials.

We are relieved to be eventually released from the visa extension purgatory and recover with lunch at the Prana Lounge, a holistic health and well being centre café.

Relaxing at the Prana Lounge in Colombo. Pic by Ross Whyte
Relaxing at the Prana Lounge in Colombo. Pic by Ross Whyte

We then visit Pettah Market, a bustling open (floating) market based in the suburbs of Colombo.  Each street specialises in one type of product, the image below shows one where almost every stall holder and shop sells identical lamps, lightbulbs and small electrical goods like radios.

Pettah Market, Colombo Sri Lanka

It is a wonder they make any money as competition seems fierce with stall holders heckling you to look at their wares. Nevertheless it was a lot of fun and the perfect close to our excursion to Sri Lanka’s capital city.

Plan and produce

Day 23 & 24  Thur 9 & Fri 10 March – Hikkaduwa
Back to Hikka, the skirts for my ‘costumes’ are nearly completed and I’ve prepared my notes for leading next week’s lunchtime lecture and debate.

Planning has started for our five way collaboration and the finale event on Friday 24 March.  In the meantime my oil drum arrived, it is quite battered but perfect for my deconstructed carnival installation.  This weekend, with help from my fellow artists, I will Oil drum Sri Lankastart making it into a steel pan!

Day 25 Sat 11 March
I gather the tools needed to make a dudup – a basic two note steel pan which we will construct on the beach.

I will use a hammer with the head wrapped in cloth to groove and tune the notes, firewood from the rainforest for the furnace, a large bowl for cooling down with sea water, and most crucially the help of my fellow artists.

A  film of the entire process will contribute to my final presentation.

ඉස්තුති (istuti) Thank you (for reading).

Sri Lanka – Hikkaduwa night life

Vibrations Music Bar
Vibrations Music Bar features live drummers

Night life in Hikka starts after sunset. Once the sky becomes an inky canopy of blazing stars restaurant owners light flambeaux to illuminate their entrances.

Most shops here stay open until late.  The busy streets and beaches are well lit at night with plenty of people around although you still have to look out for racing tuktuks.

The Book Worm Library stays open late
The Book Worm Library stays open late

Beach bars light fire pits and illuminate the sea with flashing coloured spot lights.  Each evening bars set off a flurry of noisy fireworks to announce the start of their party.

Hikkaduwa beach bonfire and street flambeaux

The local alcoholic drink arrak is made from fermented coconut flowers and is reputed to be very potent.  Bars also sell fancy fruity cocktails, beers and spirits. Outdoor bars play loud music and some feature performances with live percussionists to complement the DJ and encourage dancing under stars.