Artists are attempting to keep alive the ‘scars’ of the over 25-year-long civil war in Sri Lanka through paintings, craftworks, photographs and installations.
Nine artists from the neighbouring country attempt to capture a portrait of the island nation through decades of conflict in an exhibition currently underway at the India International Centre in New Delhi.
Titled “Portrait of Resistance,” the 5-day-long exhibition is a grim reminder to future generations on the futility of violence.
“These works are of resistance and remembrance. We artists resist forgetting and work towards reminding. We remind people of the recent past… The recent suffering. This is important to make sure that people do not repeat the same mistakes,” says Jagath Weerasinghe, whose works are on display
Through one of his works titled, “Who are We Soldier?” he tries to draw attention towards the brutality with which a man fighting for his country is ripped off his “human identity.”
“It is about the soldier’s human identity and how it is taken away from him,” Weerasinghe says.
His earlier works also revolve around the same subject of war. In ‘Anxiety’, ‘Yantra Gala’ and ‘Round Pilgrimage’ he depicts the state of the nation in the aftermath of a prolonged period of conflict.
“Please remember that we were not mere observers of war. We were as much a participant in the violence as any other person.
“Memories live with art and art talks about both sides of the story. Art talks about both – the oppressor and the victim,” he says.
While arguing that ‘history is inescapable’, the show vindicates why such memories, however traumatising, must not be erased.
The ‘Iron Man – In Front of the Museum’ by Bandu Manamperi
is a collection of photographs exhibited here, that show the artist removing his own clothes and ironing them in public.
According to the text supporting the works, “Relationship between the past and present, colonial and contemporary, old and new makes the statement that there is no great difference between the exertion of power in the colonial era of Sri Lanka and after its independence indicating a prevailing sense of totalitarianism.”
Another work by K Pushpakumara, titled ‘Barbed Wire’ portrays the ‘caged’ environment in which the displaced refugee population was forced to live after the war.
Weersinghe also says that the show attempts to address the discrimination meted out in domains of gender, art and craft and also the distinction made between high and low art.
“We took a holistic approach – the work of craft and brush all are put together at one place. This is also challenging the idea of art per se,” he says.
While ‘Silent Sitters and Doll Houses’ by Anoli Perera, who has curated the exhibition, explores the ideas of memories, history and relics, her protest series titled, “I let my hair loose” brings to the surface the politics of ‘gaze’.
“It deals with the portrayal of female subjectivity. Over the past decade my work evolved around the subject of ‘woman’ narrated within a personal context seen through the lens of my own family history. Reflections on subjectivity, identity, memory and history are embedded in my work,” she says.
The exhibition which opened on August 23 is set to conclude on August 28.