Culture and the Liminal space: investigation of threshold ritual practice of migrants from South Asia and position of the feminine translated to creative practice in clay and performance

Varuni Kanagasundaram (RMIT)
2019 Conference

Creative practice can sometimes provoke a query by giving permission to the viewer to enter a place of encounter. It is within this context the following paper explores ceramic practice incorporating other creative disciplines and materiality in a selective manner that is experiential.

The creative practice-led investigation explores threshold ritual practice of women within the South Asian diaspora as a means to translate narratives of dispersed migrants. Case studies of the practice of the ephemeral ritual drawing within the diaspora inform the ceramic practice and performance. Conveying of loss, transience and separation of cultural connections are explored through transformative state of materiality, process and action. Participation of the broader community in performance and making offers an opportunity for closer dialogue through the gesture of shared experience.

The content of the work is culturally inscribed as a dislocated everyday practice, and the translation intentionally displaces the viewer, “fracturing cultural connection”. This is a process of being located in a liminal space, comparable to the reflexive experience of migrants, to develop a sense of identity that adapts to their environment. The complex terrain of migrant experience that is explored through creative practice-led research has relevance to arts education in a global environment.

Download Full text PDF (970.25 KB)

About the author or

The creative practice-led research of Varuni Kanagasundaram predominantly in ceramics explores the expression of migrants from South Asia as a means to bring a broader dialogue on migrant experience. The expression of displacement and how they navigate between cultural traditions in new lands is central to the arts practice, are translated through cultural rituals. The creative practice of Varuni Kanagasundaram incorporates performance and community participation addressing themes of identity, place, loss, confluence of cultural practices and memory from the feminine perspective.

Following the completion of a Bachelor of Arts Honours (1st class) in Ceramics in 2013 at RMIT University, an Australia Council Art Start in 2014 helped to develop the practice that explores Cultural Hybridity. She is currently undertaking a PhD in Arts and is a casual staff member within the School of Art at RMIT University. She has been a presenter at international conferences and recipient of US art residencies, awards in major sculpture/fine art exhibitions in Australia, Scholarships and the American NCECA Multicultural Fellowship. These opportunities have allowed her to connect with the broader global arts community to convey migrant stories.