Week 1 – this blog is a summary of my first week in Sri Lanka. Time to acclimatise, explore, plus share and develop ideas with my fellow artists.
Week 1: Mon 13 – Sun 19 Feb 2017
It is the end of my first week in Sri Lanka. This post is bit longer than usual as power and wifi at Sunbeach are intermittent tending to be more off than on. Sri Lankans don’t complain as they are used to the government regularly switching off to do maintenance.
For me and the other artists it means we can’t upload our blogs and photos or do any research so we have to be resourceful and make use of time in other ways; like doze on a lounger to the rhythmic sound of the sea, explore the neighbourhood, share ideas, and plan the collaborative part of our residency. Despite all this I aim to post a blog once a week at least.
It is a privilege to be in such a beautiful place; the constant warmth and sunshine; the glorious beach life, the heady smells of spice and incense; the bustling roads full of tuk tuks, scooters and buses vying for space with pedestrians. There’s no pavements as such so they constantly toot their high pitched horns and you have to quickly get out of the way.
The local people greet you with a warm smile and a little side flick of the head giving this magical island a special and unforgettable charm.
Day 3 – Our third day was a fact finding mission – an opportunity to explore and develop ideas for our individual and collective creativity.
Walks along the beach allows time for me to think about my creation and how it will be relevant to Sri Lanka, and to me.
Lewis had already started on props for his preview performance piece and Zoe is experimenting with dance move ideas. Josh went on a trip to Colombo and Ross recorded local sounds of fisherman singing as they bring in their early morning catch. Click the links for their Sura Medura blogs so far.
At dinner we decided to set up a plan to help motivate us and inspire our work. We would take turns leading an early morning class on the beach, and set up a schedule to explore other parts of the island. Our first trip would be to the paper making factory in the morning. On Saturday Ambalangoda, and next week Kandy, Colombo, Sigiriya and Dambulla.
Early on Day 4 we convened on the beach for team games led by Lewis followed by a jump up in the waves, Zoe and Lewis held on to me as I synchronised my squeals with each surfy splash.
After breakfast we jumped in a tuk tuk to 4R Paper Products, an ethical paper making factory on the other side of town. We met Dr Linda Hodges who advocates reusing natural products, recycling scrap paper, removing dillenia – a highly invasive weed in Sri Lanka, and replanting to encourage a healthy jungle ecosystem.
4R also use banana plant husks, grass, flowers, rice straw and even elephant dung to make a range of naturally coloured paper. I chose a selection of hues and textures which I will incorporate into my ‘piece’.
Day 5 – Zoe led the morning beach class with team ball games, tomorrow Joshua will do a gym style warm up, then it’s my turn…
This is all very well but our pep talk with Neil at lunch today means we must start seriously thinking about our purpose here, the audience and how we will carry this though beyond the residency.
On 7 March we will present a summary of our practice to the students at Colombo University with an optional workshops. No pressure then.
I will start work on Sunday to create elements for what I will now call my ‘expression piece’ or ‘expression’ for short; a masked costume installation, a non definitive wearable sculpture, an exhibition of moving art, an impression of my me here now.
Explore local culture
Day 6 – Sat 18 Feb. We took a 20 minute train ride to Ambalangoda for a visit to the Ariyapala Masks Museum and a tour of the fascinating display of old and new masks. Our tour guide explained the origins, healing rituals, dances and traditions of Sinhalese mask making.
We also came across a Buddhist temple which a small orange clad boy kindly unlocked for us so we could go inside and have a peek.
Day 7 – Sun 19 Feb. This morning I led a stretching session on the beach – a gentle salute to the sun on the sand. My original idea was to do something frenetic like an African dance routine but following Joshua’s gym session yesterday stretching seemed the ideal follow up.
Feeling refreshed I visited the Dehansa cane factory to buy wicker, then went to the sprawling dusty bustling Sunday market in Hikka where stall holders sell fruit, vegetables, fish, clothing and a range of household wares.
I had my first taste of jackfruit in its natural form – absolutely the most delicious food ever – a cross between watermelon and pineapple with a peachy texture. The stall holders laughed and flicked their heads as I rolled my eyes in bliss at the divine taste.
I spent the afternoon working outside designing templates to the sound of the waves until a thunderstorm brought everything to a spectacular but soggy standstill.
Tomorrow we will take a four and a half hour train trip to Kandy via Colombo to visit the Temple of the Tooth, and the botanical gardens, then on to Sigiriya and Dambulla to see some of the amazing wonders of the world.
One week done. Five to go. Whew what a life changing experience! Next week down to business.
Sri Lanka facts:
The food at Sunbeach is divine, we’ve had a selection of gourmet Sri Lankan dishes flavoured with pungent and tasty spices courtesy of the chef manager Chaminda. One favourite is Jackfruit curry.
Jackfruit truly is a miracle food, purported to be a solution to world hunger due to its prolific growth and versatility. It is the most delicious fruit that can be transformed into both sweet and savoury dishes.
Another favourite is Devilled Fish, a sweet and sour curry made with tuna or seer fish, adopted and adapted by the Sri Lankans from the Chinese.
This phrase āyubūvan means “may you live long”, and is accompanied by a small bow and the hands clasped together. It is used for greetings and partings.