Week 6: Presentations and farewell to Sri Lanka

Week 6 – The final week of the residency is here and we say farewell to Sri Lanka with a flourish of presentations in Hikkaduwa and Colombo.

Week 6: Mon 20 – 27 Mar 2017

This week will see the much anticipated  finale event: Moving Beyond to be presented at Sunbeach in Hikkaduwa on Friday and on Saturday at The Sooriya Music Village in Colombo.

Hikkaduwa press for Moving Beyond - Weekend Leader

Day 33 & 34 Sun 19 and Mon 20 Mar
We continue the meticulous planning for our presentations at the finale event writing up the programme and finalising the layout for the banquet.

The five of us look at ways we can organise a mass participation photo with the audience.  We experiment on the beach at night with a long exposure and moving lights to create the image.

Rathgama Lagoon at Dodanduwa Sri Lanka

Mary and T on Rathgama Lagoon in Dodanduwa Sri LankaOn Monday afternoon we visit Rathgama Lagoon in Dodanduwa for a peaceful interlude at a tranquil inland expanse of deep still water.

Six of us board a long thin narrowboat with an oarsman at each end who take us on a magical journey across the enormous lagoon that is home to mangroves, monitor lizards and fishermen.

Other than the swish of the oars in the water and the creature calls from the mangroves it is unusually quiet allowing us a meditative moment before the mayhem of our upcoming performances.

Buddhist Temple tableau at Rathgama Lagoon Sri Lanka

We stop off at a Buddhist temple on one of the two small islets; Polgasduwa and Parappuduwa. An orange clad monk shows us the imposing shrouded statue of Buddha and explains the violent disturbing scenes displayed by each tableau of statues. Thankfully there is a moral tale behind each uncomfortable portrayal.

Buddha sculpture at Rathgama Lagoon Sri Lanka

As sunset approaches fruit bats emerge from the trees slowly filling the sky with black bat silhouettes against the pinkening clouds.

Day 35 & 36
Tue 21 and Weds 22 March.
These are our final days of preparation with a little relaxation in between.  We collect firewood from the jungle, I order cinnamon wood from Chaminda, we mount our exhibitions, post up the final programme, organise supplies, and practice our newly devised drumming finale with the dudup as the closing centrepiece.

Mary Lewis Zoe Ross and Joshua practice playing the dudup steel pan at Sunbeach Sri Lanka
Mary Lewis Zoe Ross and Joshua practice playing the dudup steel pan.

Giant turtles on Hikka Beach Sri LankaThis week my early morning routine is a walk along the beach with T.  We pass other early risers, joggers, surfers, bar owners tidying up, and people practicing yoga and meditation as the sun rises.

We come across the giant turtles surrounded by tourists feeding them seaweed and taking photos.  Just beyond the coral reef is a bay where the water is calm enough for me to give thanks with a ritual triple dunk before drying in the sun as we walk back to Sunbeach in time for breakfast.

Presentations and performances

Day 37 Thur 23 March – the dress rehearsal
Today is for important guests who cannot make the presentation proper on Friday.  They will preview the show at our dress rehearsal. For us it is a performance.

Neil Butler, Bob Palmer and Bettina Linstrum observe our efforts providing essential and constructive feedback .  As a result we make some quite major tweaks that greatly improve the flow of the show.

Mary and Lewis perform Mas and Mayhem at Sunbeach Hotel, Hikkaduwa Sri Lanka March 2017

Day 38 Fri 24 March – Moving Beyond Hikkaduwa
We are ready, the guests start arriving and the show starts with Ross‘s sound installation ‘Degrees of Separation‘  that captures the spirit of Sri Lanka with recordings of voices, sounds and music simultaneously played through radios set up in the corridor.

Than Joshua presents ‘Everything Stops for Tea’, a witty and informative talk and discussion about the history of tea and potential proposals to promote tea in the future.  Zoe Labyrinth on Hikka Beach Sri LankaThis is followed by ‘Conversations with Artists’, an informal opportunity for guests to find out more about our experience as Suramedura artists in Sri Lanka.

Then the performances start with Zoe’s ‘LabyrinthZ’.  Wearing minotaur horns she leads the audience on a magical guided tour through her beach labyrinth. Lewis is next with ‘MADDOGZ’, a captivating physical theatre presentation he parades through the corridor of audience members.

I am concealed in my room dressed in a deconstructed carnival costume waiting as Lewis finishes his performance.  This is my cue to start the first part of my ‘Mas and Mayhem’ presentation.

I emerge slowly and mysteriously, jangling with musical bracelets and anklets, torches attached to my feet cast light upwards into my voluminous skirt. A torch is nestled in my piled up locks within the headdress of cardboard, coir and leaves.

Mary Genis Mas and Mayhem Suramedura Sunbeach Hikkaduwa Sri Lanka March 2017

The soundtrack is an unrecognisable version of Arrow’s Hot Hot Hot which Ross time stretched for me by slowing down the track without affecting the pitch.  The familiar ‘Olé Olé’ section used, sounds more like a magnificent cathedral choir accompanied by drawn out majestic chords.  Listen here.

I beckon the audience to join me and gesture towards the roaring flames of the oil drum fire pit. I think of the Canboulay, I think of the Candomblé.

Mary makes a dudup steel pan at Sunbeach Hikka Sri Lanka March 2017

After a few minutes Lewis appears in his Mas and Mayhem costume.  We dance a slow twirling series of bends and leans peppered with short bursts of frantic movement until we pull apart and prowl towards the flames, each slow wide step billowing our skirts.

As we reach the flames and the beach front Zoe starts the second part of her presentation. She emerges from a womb set on a nest of banana leaves at the centre of her labyrinth for a dance of rebirth.

I quickly change and return to the fire to demonstrate the making of the dudup.  Then together the five of us play a frenetic rhythm on the steel pan for a fantastic finale to our performances. The guests cheer and applause to a cacophony of fireworks and bangers.

The mass participation light painting photo taken by Joshua Sofaer

A delicious banquet of rice and curry follows with toasts to Sri Lanka, the ocean, the Hikka fishermen, the tea pickers and the audience.  Then the mass participation photo takes place on the beach followed by the party.

The day is both exciting and nerve-wracking,  an absolute triumph as a finale for the Suramedura project and the most amazing six weeks.  Still one more performance tomorrow.

Josh, Ross, Lewis, Sarah, Zoe, Ohan and MaryDay 39 Sat 25 March – Moving Beyond Colombo.
We travel the two hour journey to Colombo with Sarah Hannen who helps Neil with PR, and Ohan from Stageless Arts to present our work at the Sooriya Music Village.

After a lovely lunch we have a short time to reorganise ourselves and come up with an adaptation of yesterday’s presentation that will suit the time, the space and diners not expecting to be part of a moving installation.

Suramedura Performance at Sooriya Village in Colombo – film by Ross Whyte

It is a different performance, a true collaboration of ideas from five intrepid artists, a presentation to be truly proud of.

Lewis and Mary present Mas and Mayhem at Sooriya Village Colombo

Farewell Sri Lanka

How can I sum up this amazing and wonderful experience.

It is thanks to a nomination from Simon Chatterton of 101 Outdoor Arts in Newbury that I had this opportunity to spend six weeks in glorious Sri Lanka as one of five Suramedura International Artists in Residence from England and Scotland.

Bettina, Chaminda, Neil, Bob. Seated: Ross, Mary, Lewis, Zoe and Joshua

Many thanks to mentor and host Neil Butler who devised the Suramedura project and guided us through the residency; to Bob Palmer who gave support and constructive advice throughout;  to life coach Bettina Linstrum for personal time and head space; and to Chaminda for providing three delicious meals a day of five star quality Sri Lankan cuisine.

Six weeks ago five artists met for the first time in Sri Lanka. We ate together, laughed and cried, travelled, explored, shared ideas, presented, performed and grew together.  We now have a strong connection through our art practice.

I thank Joshua, Lewis, Zoe and Ross for providing me with enough inspiration to last a lifetime.

Suramedura – an unforgettable experience that will have a positive and lasting influence on my work and my life.

ඉස්තුති istuti- thank you

Suramedura resident artist blogs.