EXPLORING THE IMPACT OF TRAVELLING EXHIBITIONS

Radhika Hettiarachchi

As a professional curator and researcher stationed across Sri Lanka, Radhika Hettiarachchi finds travel deepens understanding of culture and community. To share and exchange something essential with a place holds significance. As the founder of the Herstories (2012 - 2013) and Community Memorialization Project (2015) which are travelling exhibition projects, Radhika utilizes visual art as a medium to bring awareness about conflict. The process of travel reverberates spatial experience that alter morphologies of location. “There is a spiritual place to be found wherever you go”, the curator muses. “What’s really important is not the way you curate and share artwork, but the conversations that come out of it afterwards”. Plights of families and women in particular during the Sri Lankan civil war and its tumultuously questionable legacy have been archived by the projects. “It’s about using art to create intergenerational dialogue. It’s interesting to see how these travelling exhibitions have impacted conversations between diaspora”. The mobile exhibition format has provided opportunities of communication between diverse yet universal communities island wide.

The prevalence of ethnic conflict is apparent across the globe. Affected creative communities and individuals like Radhika have found a universal resource from which to study. Apprehending war is complicated. Peace and reconciliation movements are overshadowed by the capitalism of postwar redevelopment. There is a constant presence of protest movements seeking justice for unanswered crimes. It gives people a starting point of how to speak to each other. “A travelling exhibition is curated to suit the place and their needs”. Making note of its significance in framing narrative to second-generation diaspora communities in London, New York or Toronto, where the showcase travelled, Radhika states: “there is a nature to the dialogue that moves because of the influence of new things to think about, like new seeds of thought. Considered by a multiplicity of sources, perhaps locations are best defined by context.

In presenting her findings of those who suffer and migrate in extreme situations across the country, Radhika naturally utilizes a mixture of expressive forms derived from respective cultural communities. Letters and interviews are displayed alongside works of art. The storyteller has worked in the field of conflict transformation and interest-building since 2005, beginning in Sri Lanka. Associated with the UN, she visited locations around the island after the 2004 tsunami. “Everyone started with their life story, rather than with what they actually needed”. In understanding the necessity of communicating life experience than material gain, the curator urged herself to record, document and share people’s narratives. The decision to use visual art as a medium began in 2011 as part of a World Bank project in Afghanistan. Working with Dari and Pashtun women, she helped conceive a tree-of life format that revitalized destitute war- ravaged communities. “With this expressive format they looked at their life from the shape of a tree, it was amazing to learn that they were actually quite like heroes.

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15th August, 2018 Literature | Personalities

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