Making history with Colomboscope 2014

Saturday, 18 January 2014 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Kinita Shenoy       Celebrating contemporary literature, music, dance and theatre, Colomboscope is bringing together writers, academics, cultural commentators, and performance artistes from Sri Lanka, Europe and the region for the second year running. Organised by the Goethe Institut, the British Council, and the Alliance Francaise, in partnership with the title sponsor Standard Chartered Bank, Colomboscope aims to revisit its presence as one of Colombo’s landmark cultural events. Much like 2013’s Colomboscope – Identities, this year’s edition will be adopting an interdisciplinary approach to the Arts. This year, the festival shares the theme of ‘Making History’ with the concurrent Colombo Art Biennale, allowing visitors to enjoy both events with topics related to history and remembrance from different angles, reflected by various art forms and genres. The three days of the Standard Chartered Colomboscope festival will take place in 3 different and unique locations in Colombo: Modera, the old center (Pettah / Fort / Slave Island), and Cinnamon Gardens. Each unexplored historical site handpicked as a venue for the festival’s programme will provide a distinct and expressive experience for audience. A full program of ticketed and free performances, author readings, guided walks, talks and panel discussions. The artistes include UK and German performance and video artistes Gob Squad, Iraqi/German writer Abbas Khider, sociologist Fatima Bhutto, a selected few of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists for 2013, writer Shyam Selvadurai, Mind Adventures Theatre Company performing ‘Paraya’, a specially choreographed performance for the festival by dancer Venuri Perera, and acclaimed musicians Musicmatters. Featuring some of the island’s sharpest intellects and creative minds, the talks, discussions and panels feature local and international writers, historians, sociologists, artists, architects and cultural commentators. Promising to be both provoking and provocative, the sessions cover topics such as official and unofficial histories, social media and real time history making, lost female narratives and language and history. Colomboscope 2014’s curator, Radhika Hettiarachchi introduced this year’s venues and programme along with a short explanation of its theme, ‘Making History’. She described it as a “provocative theme, lending itself to the possibilities of exploring and questioning the world we live in from the lens of what we know from yesterday, what we live today and what we might become tomorrow.” She added that History is something that is not necessarily a remote memory from the past but something that transcends time to affect the political, social, aesthetic, cultural and ideological landscape that is created and negotiated daily. “It is embodied in thought and action; it is etched in our consciousness and travels with us individually and collectively.”  Hettiarachchi extrapolated: “Through this festival of arts, I wanted to explore the nuanced intricacies of making history and how history in turn makes us, through literature, film, theatre, music and dance. It brings together some of the keenest minds in Sri Lanka, Europe and the region – writers of fiction, essayists, academics, dramatists, architects, artists, filmmakers, performers and musicians.” Goethe Institut Director Bjorn Ketels lauded the interdisciplinary approaches of the festival, stating that Colomboscope was another important platform along with the concurrent Colombo Art Bienalle. He added that the Goethe Instituts in South Asia were focusing on remembrance and dealing with the past. Displaying his excitement about the varied venues, Ketels mentioned that they were all unusual or abandoned, not necessarily considered art venues by society. British Council Director Keith Davies succinctly touched upon the organisation’s interest in encouraging and promoting new works and aspects of art. He added: “We are not just looking backwards with history, but making it for the future.” Davies introduced the two upcoming British authors that would be attending the festival, Joanna Kavena and Adam Foulds as well as their debut publications. He reiterated his enthusiasm in supporting Sri Lanka’s local culture and arts while introducing new, cutting edge elements from Europe. Davies was followed by the Alliance Française’s Alexandre Martinez, who stated that history is interpretation, a political act. He explained further, adding that “the future is a shadow of the past”, and selective memories ensure we always live a little in the past. Martinez also touched upon the invitee from France, Serge Noiret, a specialist of History Information and Digital History, who would be taking the audiences through the interloping concepts of history in the digital age. The organizers mentioned that with some of the larger locations this year being able to accommodate about 400 people per session, they were expecting more visitors than last year’s 3000 odd.  While Colombo and the rest of the world are constantly evolving and transforming, the Standard Chartered Colomboscope offers a forum in which writers, musicians, thinkers, dancers, filmmakers and actors can reflect upon history in all its complexities. Highlighting many facets of historical analysis, including the importance of complementing mainstream history with citizens’ accounts, the impact of the digital age on the documentation of historic events, the lessons that can be learned with the benefit of hindsight, and artistic re-interpretations of historic folk and dance heritage Colomboscope 2014 is also an invitation to step off the beaten track and rediscover Colombo. The organisers describe it as “an opportunity to explore forgotten spaces and take in their magnificent views; watch new interpretations of ritual folk dances and melodies unfold under the majestic Nuga Tree of the Sri Lanka Foundation; enter the forgotten New Town Hall Auditorium on Green Path to hear how art sometimes finds itself playing the role of complementary chronologist; go back in time to the Whist Bungalow in Modera – The fashionable district of mid-19th century Colombo; taste the culinary creations and enjoy a picnic from selected Good Market vendors; play a game of Whist while the Chamber Music Society’s String Quartet musically evokes the sound of a bygone era; follow debates and discussions by award winning local and international writers on how they have dealt with, and been witness to eventful periods in modern history.” For further information or tickets, contact the Goethe Institut at [email protected] or +94 11 2694562 or the British Council at [email protected] or +94 (0)11 7521521 or +94 (0)11 4521521. Programme notes, participants and other information can be found on the website,, or Facebook at, or twitter @colomboscope.