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“Contested Space”

First Solo Exhibition 2007

Contested Space: A Photographic Exploration with an aim to Re-read the ‘Identity’, ‘Traditions’ and, ‘Culture’ of Historical Anuradhapura, Sir Lanka.

‘Identity’, ‘tradition, and ‘culture’ are always represented as homogeneous and static phenomenon. Historical writings on above have forgotten the diverse and diffusion aspects of those concepts. Anthropological explorations from all over the world have shown that no communities have exist without influence from ‘other’s’ societies. Forgetting these diverse and generative aspects of culture can create only the partial readings of ones own society. Also, this may be a problematic especially in heterogeneous societies as each trying to re-establish their so called purified ‘tradition’ or ‘identity, by excluding ‘others’. In order to affirm ones own culture, some may use these types of puritanical values as rhetoric over the other’s cultural domain. Historiography is the closest victim of this process, as everyone seeks their roots of generation through history.

However, historiography itself is a problematic in different aspects. Firstly, historical writings are result of the elitist scholarly project which suppressed the subaltern voices. Therefore, it does not reflect the plurality of the society. Secondly, it is always presence as partial truth as it constitutes between fiction (imagination) and reality. Thirdly, historiography is always shaped by writer’s ideological interests. Therefore, it is always argumentative and problematic. Thus, in order to understand the richness of ones own tradition, it is essential to re-read and re-interpret not only the historical writings but also existing factual records such as archaeological evidence.

Based on these basic theoretical and conceptual assumptions, the exhibition aims to generate a dialogue among the general public about historical period of Anuradhapura. Anuradhapura is being recognized as the golden era of the Sinhalese civilization and culture. But, as I conceptualized previously, this recognition itself is a problematic due to few reasons: most historical writings do not question what is the identity, and tradition of Sinhalese. Historiography of Anuradhapura period enunciates it’s civilization as homogeneous category which was emanated from own generations. Consequently, all other categories who lived in same ‘space’ and their contributions to the growth of that period have forgotten or excluded by the writing of history. However, most of the archaeological evidence found from Anuradhapura has shown the infusion of different traditions and their culture of same civilization. Thus, it is essential to identify and initiate the dialogue of understanding the history of Sri Lanka who wish to seek the pluralism in the country.

Taking to consideration of this, I intend to launch a dialogue of the historiography of Anuradhapura especially within the field of visual culture and generally among the general public. Thus, the exhibition attempts to depict the diversity of historical period of Anuradhapura by illustrating its archaeological evidence in the field of photography.

Harold Pieris Gallery Lionel Wendt Art Center Colombo 2007

Moving in to …

Sublime spaces differ one to another are defined by human interactions. The past bears witness to these spaces and interaction. Space is still however a point of discourse and every moment these spaces regenerate these points of conflict. These doorways are the results of creativity and of human interaction – each distinct from one to anther. Like a historian who departs from a singular dimension of interpretations these doorways that differ from each other calls for a symbolic walk through.


Erased memories of the space


Visible of Invisibles

The assumption is that the sihalas were the combination of the four races of the yakkas, the naggas, rakshas and devas. What happened to these four races? The highly stylized nagini figure found on this vahalkda of the Jetavana stupa is this depiction of the supremacy of the nagas over the society or is it just a memory that had not been suppressed.

 To what tradition does it bear witness these heavily jeweled, floral decked figures?  Whose wealth is it that is preserved? The dwarfs near the lion pond, the lotus bahirava in the vijayaba enclosure, the dwarfs by the side of the moonstone sitting in isolation are they all creations of myths?


Isurumuniya is the dwelling of the bikkus who abdicated their wealth therefore it became Isurumuniya, and where vasyas dwelled became vessagiriya. Even today the debate exists over its dwelling status and its contextual naming, yet does it not indicate the highly complexed nature of social relationships with a certain space?

Bearer of the Traditions

Stone pillars not only carry monumental buildings. In the discussion of the ancientness of these pillars portrays strength, of a tradition and of straight formation. Yet tradition is not something that suffices instantly. It is a clear articulation of action and counter action and the results of the product. Erected in different times these stone pillars what do they indicate?


The features of a lion is valiant, superiority and exceptionality. The lion within the context of the vihararama tradition symbolizes the imposition of power over worldly matter and of the power of the state. Does these then conquer the purity of space?


Deconstructed “I”

The meditating monk sits in the padana gara worn out by the decorative kaleidoscope of life which goes beyond simplicity. Why do they then decorate their toilets with the lion? Is it the need to show that they can fight with themselves so that they can deconstruct the “I”?

Copyright Waruni Anuruddhika 2007