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Sri Lanka Artist Residency

Sura Medura is an International Artist Residency Centre in Hikkaduwa, South West Sri Lanka. Established in 2011 it offers opportunities for Artists to develop and challenge their practice and create work that is enchanted by being developed in Sri Lanka.

Resident artists are offered mentorship, coaching and opportunities to meet with their peers in the Sri Lankan Arts Community and develop projects with other international residents.

Mary will research mask making, batik, local nature and local culture.


Suramedura resident artist performances at Sunbeach Hikkaduwa.

Read Mary's weekly blog here.

Deconstructing carnival
I settle on my theme of deconstructing carnival, but what is that?
I can only explain what it means to me which is cutting back on all the things I love about Caribbean style carnival; the mas with feathers, glitter and beads; the shiny chromed steel pans; the calypso, soca and sound systems, and the flags and banners.

For the deconstruction, I go back to the roots of carnival by creating the dudup - grandfather to the steel pan; the mas and dance influenced by Brazilian Candomble - the dance of the Gods (orixas) combining West Africa traditions with Roman Catholicism; and the masquerade balls of the French plantation owners in Trinidad mimicked by the excluded slaves to create Canboulay - the precursor to Carnival as we know it today.


Mas and Mayhem performance clip at Sooriya Village, Colombo

Making the costumes
I am using only local materials to create a performance for Sura Medura that is enchanted by Sri Lanka. I experiment with cane, coir, paper and fabric from nearby suppliers. I gather 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.

Devising the dance and the music
The steel drum - I gathered the tools needed to make a dudup - a basic two note steel pan which we will construct on the beach. First an old oil drum,
a hammer wrapped in cloth to groove and tune the notes, firewood from the rainforest for the fire pit furnace, a large bowl for cooling down with sea water, and most crucially the help of my fellow artists.
Lewis Sherlock inspired ideas with using lights to illuminate the skirts choreographing the slow twisting dance perfectly complimented by Ross Whyte's majestic slowed down version of Arrow's 'Hot Hot Hot'.

Mas and Mayhem
Mas and Mayhem is the performance as a whole: the exhibition of words and anecdotes explaining the overall project; a short film showing the making of the dudup; and a display of the materials used for the costumes.

Performances
The residency culminated in two performances at Sura Medura Hikkaduwa and at Sooriya Village in Sri Lanka's capital Colombo.

Mary Genis Suramedura International artist in residence February 2017 Sri Lanka

Mary Genis Suramedura International artist in residence February 2017 Sri Lanka

Deconstructing Carnival

Mary Genis Suramedura International Artist in Residence

For the deconstructing carnival concept I take away all the things I love about Caribbean style carnival; the celebration; the mas and feathers, glitter and beads; the shiny chromed steel pans; the calypso, soca and sound systems, and the flags and banners.

I go back to the roots of Carnival, the Candomble; the Canboulay; the costumes recycled from found materials; rhythms and music created from industrial waste; the dance connected to the spirits and the gods; and the traditions of ancient cultures.

It is a fight for identity, an expression of the pain and suffering of slavery, the influence of industrialisation, the furnace of hope that has created the cultural mix we celebrate today.

Sri Lanka materials

Coir rope, Sri Lanka pot stand, Asian mini drum and cane switch.

Coir rope is made from the coconut husk. I used fabric, coir, cardboard, leaves, pods, pot stands from Hikkaduwa Sunday market, cane from the nearby furniture making factory, leaves and twigs from the jungle, seed pods from the beach and a battered oil drum.