Last week of the residency at Sura Medura…
My coloured notepad is almost full. The studio looks like a children’s arts and crafts workshop. I’ve been making. Dilani’s children have been helping too.
Our final presentation is this week on Friday. I want to update my blog prior to this to keep a more formal record of beginning, middle and…beyond.
I’ve visited a lot of different places over the past few weeks. I’ve walked and talked, surfed and safaried, ridden on trains, tuk-tuks, jeeps and bikes – dripping sweat surprising new parts of the body. The heat and humidity can be oppressive but it’s not kept me down. I’ve been all about the intensive touristing.
Our expedition to Tissa for the Yala and Bundala Safaris was an incredible experience. It was trying physically, my body being bounced, projected and rattled by local transport as well as by the safari Jeeps over the course of our three day visit. However, to sit in and witness some wonderful small moments of wildlife was mesmerising. Yala is a vast park. You don’t see much apart from land and trees and maybe the odd bird at first glance, but with the tracker spotting a large variety of species throughout the day, your awareness becomes heightened and you start to notice more and more. The scene that unfolded in one murky puddle between a pair of terrapins, a stork and a frog was like an epic tale of life, death, love and survival – all encapsulated in the form of a well played game of hide and seek.
The past week I’ve stayed at Sura Medura, gathering materials to work and experiment with. It’s nice to be ‘home’, my being nurtured by Dilani’s wonderful food and her playful children with whom I’ve had the pleasure to create with. I’m working on a structure made from wood and paper which takes it’s inspiration from the tea factory experience and the heaps and mounds of tea I saw being created there by the old Victorian machines.
The mounds of tea at the factory made an impression on me. The continuous outpour of this textured, valuable product was a feast for the senses – rich, raw and somehow feminine. The smell, tactility and mass implied a simultaneous density and lightness, while worlds of process, environment and consumption were somehow manifest in these humble sitting heaps. In a similar way in which the man from Close Encounters can’t get the image of the mountain out of his head, the shape, form and texture of these mounds kept coming back to me and I’ve found myself creating my own models of the structures.
As I create more and research into potential materials for the piece I find some interesting crossovers highlighted by the locals I’ve shared my idea with. For example, it is a tradition in Sri Lanka for a new house to be blessed by a ceremony which is conducted inside a paper house, constructed by a local craftsmen. The decorative paper house sits inside the new house and is where the monk carries out the ceremony. I visited a paper factory near Hikkaduwa and discovered hand-made paper made from tea dust. Apart from being inspired by the stacks of hand-made paper created from recycled materials, including elephant dung! I felt immensely inspired to be in a working factory where the recycling and reusing of waste materials was being so passionately and industriously manufactured. The owner was very nice in showing me around and explaining where he gets his waste materials from and how he makes the paper. I find the recycling of materials and the initiative and energy of the people who do so very exciting and infectious. I’d love to see Sri Lanka becoming pioneers for sustainable living. It’s already incredibly inspirational on that front the way it is I think.
In between my work on ‘John & Yoko’ (my nickname for my tea mound structures because they resemble the image of the long haired couple from their bed in days), I’ve also a photography project on the go featuring pieces of costume I’ve created in response to the environment and stories both imagined and real. I’ve been inspired by the ever fading folk culture and traditions of folk songs and poetry amidst people from varying labours. Song is an important part of life and culture here it seems – many love to sing, and so do I. Kavi songs or song poetry can be heard online but there are not many english translations although I’m aware they are often about the land and work and the feelings of the worker etc. I find it interesting mainly for the area of voice and environment and how song is very much a way of connecting to the environment especially when also incorporating working with the land whether it be in the paddy fields or in mining for gems. I’ve yet to include song in to my work, but at the moment, I’ve been using imagery and costume to create a fantastical expression of an experience in a particular environment. I hope to take this out into the local community and stage such images featuring some local residents of Hikkaduwa.
I’ve also had a play with the sounds Mark has captured over the past few weeks. Real recorded sounds are great to work with. I also have memories of most of the sounds Mark recorded as I was often with him so it has been nice to listen back to these and recall experiences in my development of new performance work and narratives. Our first improvisation was two days ago and we created a sound score together then I used my own memories and associations with the sounds to generate movement sequences. It’s all happening.