Week 3: Dance, drum, create and express

Week 3 – Research completed, ideas formed, I’ve danced to the drum and now it is time to design, create, compose, present and perform.

Week 3: Mon 28 Feb – Sun 5 Mar 2017

කොහොමද? kohomadha? – How are you?

Week 3 already.  Create week!

Absolutely nothing could have prepared me for the Sura Medura residency here in Sri Lanka. What will I make or create?
With no meticulous advance planning the challenge is to allow ideas to emerge and evolve influenced by the local culture, nature and materials available.

I never imagined the level of inspiration that comes from having the time and space to relax properly, to think, to explore and to discover.
Add fantastic fresh food and a dramatic tropical climate of brilliant sunshine by day and star lit nights – Paradise!

My ‘expression’ is starting to take shape. I am experimenting with locally sourced materials including cane, coir, paper and fabric from nearby suppliers. I get twigs, branches and leaves from the jungle, and coconut seeds and pods from the beach.  The whole installation is a play on carnival as an art form.

Another spectacular Hikkaduwa sunset.



As fellow artists we have become a creative family, supporting and helping the development of each other’s ideas to make a success of this opportunity.

Our lunch time lectures stimulate discussion and enthusiastic debate.  With Josh we explore the role of the audience in performance art.  Ross laid out the pros and cons of studying for a PhD.  Next week it is my turn!

Neil’s long time friend and colleague Bob Palmer joins us.  He is an adviser and producer of International cultural projects.

Artists create: clockwise from top left – Josh, Zoe, Lewis, Ross.

Drum and dance

Weekend Fri 24 – Sun 26 Feb
This weekend I start construction and we open our doors so anyone passing can see us at work and share our progress, just like an ‘atelier‘.

On Friday evening we pop across the road to a party with the most captivating live drummers that transports me into a tribal dance frenzy cleansing my mind, body and soul, and reminding me that rhythm is life!

Neptune breathing

Day 13 Mon 27 feb
Ross leads todays morning class – a listening session – starting on the terrace at 5.30am, before sunrise. We close our eyes for one minute then describe what we hear.

For me the crashing waves sound like a distant violent thunderstorm.  The high pitched rattling of the water rolling back and forth over the sand at speed could be mistaken for an enormous swarm of swirling locusts. I liken the ebb and flow of the magnificent ocean to Neptune breathing.

Jungle Flowers
Jungle flowers

Then into the jungle in silence, where the chirps, cheeps and calls of the dawn chorus fill the air.  I really enjoy how Ross helps us to be still and listen properly.   On the rainforest floor I find these divine quivering pink fronded flower creatures (above) which I tenderly carry ‘home’.  In silence.

Day 14 Tue 28 Feb
Elephant Foot is the only shop in Hikkaduwa selling drums and percussion. The daughter of the owner demonstrates the clicking finger playing technique on a Sri Lankan drum called a Rabana.

Kandyan dance workshop Sri Lanka

Zoe and I attend a dance class at the Banda Wejesuriya School of Dance in Ambalangoda. Our teacher Danuchka teaches us a Buddhist Kandyan dance called Namaskar with an accompanying song Ash Saramba: Domi Kita Kita dom.

At dinner I have my first taste of fresh seasoned crab, a theatrical and messy affair of cracking shells, picking out the flesh and enjoying the surprisingly sweet taste.

Day 15 & 16
Wed 1 & Thur 2 March
Despite the tropical rain I go into the jungle to gather materials  for the construction of my twig exhibition.  I am encouraged to be as radical and rebellious as I dare.
I go to Galle to buy more fabric for the costumes.  Bus travel is now my favourite form of transport as it is cheap, hair-raising and the bus stop is right outside Sunbeach.

Day 17 Fri 3 March
Today we travel by tuk tuk to Dodanduwa, 4km South of Hikkaduwa, to visit the new Sura Medura site that will become purpose built artist studios.  We see a large monitor lizard lazing on a tree overhanging the lagoon.  To me it looks like a small alligator!

Then we visit the coir (pronounced ‘coy-ah’) factory to see how fibre from the outer husk of the coconut is used for making rope and matting.  Local people make small mats and baskets by hand. The larger carpets are woven using huge mechanical looms.

Coir factory at Dodanduwa
Coir factory at Dodanduwa

Day 18 Sat 4 Mar
We are almost half way through the residency .  I am absorbing every minute so I can return home filled with enough inspiration and sunshine to last forever.

Next week we present a summary of our arts practice to the visual and performing arts students at the University of Colombo.  Then the creation continues…

Sri Lanka – people

The people of Sri Lanka are warm, friendly, helpful and supportive.  English is spoken by most and they will go out of their way to help you.

Chaminda and 10 dish currySunbeach manager and master chef Chaminda (above) is famous for his 10 dish curry.  He is the font of all local knowledge and if you need something unusual he will know where to get it and how to get there.

The Sunbeach staff play a popular board game called Carrom (left). A white disc is flicked with the finger to knock the coloured discs into the corner pockets.

Tuk tuk driver Chinthaka

Tuk tuk drivers are aplenty here, you rarely have to wait more than a few minutes before half a dozen are offering you their services.   Chinthaka (right) is the  recommended choice if you have a complex mission that needs a translator.

Next door to Sunbeach is the Reef Break Surf School. Suma (left) takes learners into the water and shouts ‘Up! Up! Up!’ when the right wave comes along.

 (below) is the lovely owner of my favourite sarong shop. She is always welcoming and  lets me rummage through the huge piles of fabric in the back.  It is just across the road to Sunbeach and bursting with lovely hand made beach wear.  Sumana dressed me in a sari.  I felt like an Asian princess.

ඉස්තුති istuti- thank you.


  1. So great to read how much the experience of Serendib is giving you in time and space – such a joy in this hectic world, to scratch the itch and get under your own skin to explore thoughts and ideas and take them further than “that would be a great thing to do some time”.

  2. Thank you Celia – I learned something new as I didn’t know Serendib is an old Persian name for Sri Lanka. A beautiful word that sums up this fabulous island. x

Comments are closed.