Reimagining the Cosmopolitanism of Sri Lanka Through Cultural Artefacts

Inoka Samarasekara, Assoc Prof Katherine Moline, Dr Zoe Veness (University of New South Wales)
2021 Conference

The obstacles occurring in global cultural flows due to the COVID-19 pandemic disclose the unpredictable and inconsistent nature of globalisation. The reductions in people’s mobility are leading to new dialogues with their nation-states. In turn, nation-states are seeking to secure their economic position through a strengthening of nationalism during the pandemic. The newly emerged circumstances of these interrelationships of the global and the local signify the potential for new networks. Drawing on Arjun Appadurai’s reimagining of cosmopolitanism as a move beyond the insularity and exclusions prompted by cultural difference, this paper focusses on Sri Lanka as one context that has confronted a decline in cosmopolitanism due to civil unrest since the declaration of independence in 1948. To rebuild the cosmopolitanism of the different cultures that make up Sri Lanka the paper explores the early cosmopolitanism of historical Sri Lanka through traditional jewellery artefacts, with a specific focus on traditional Sri Lankan bridal regalia. As a resource for future generations to reimagine the history and future of cosmopolitanism in Sri Lanka, the paper discusses my practice-based methodology of annotated visual documentation of the cosmopolitan craft traditions embodied in the traditional iconography of the bridal regalia. The purpose of the research is to record and preserve the Sri Lankan iconography of the jewellery that makes up traditional bridal regalia and to reimagine and renew cosmopolitanism through an intercultural dialogue based on a rich craft heritage in a context that has been continuously shaped by the dynamics of globalisation.

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About the author

Inoka Samarasekara

Inoka Samarasekara is currently a PhD student at the School of Art & Design, Faculty of Arts, Design & Architecture, University of New South Wales, Australia and an academic from the University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka. In her PhD, she explores methods to preserve, re-imagine and renew the traditional forms of Sri Lankan jewellery that have been impacted by colonisation and globalisation.

Assoc Prof Katherine Moline

Katherine Moline is Associate Professor at UNSW Arts, Design and Architecture. Her research focuses on the dynamics between technological and social forces in art and design. Her analyses of experimental design are published in Undesign: Critical Practices at the Intersection of Art and Design (Routledge, 2018) and Food Democracy: Critical Lessons in Food, Communication, Design and Art (Intellect, 2017). Her innovations in research methods have been documented in Uncertainty and Possibility: New Approaches to Future Making in Design Anthropology (Routledge, 2020) and The Routledge Companion to Digital Ethnography (Routledge, 2017).

Exhibitions for which she has led curatorial teams include:
The Data Imaginary: Fears and Fantasies, Griffith University Art Museum, Brisbane (2021).
Funded by the Australia Council for the Arts (2020-2021).

Climactic: Post Normal Design, Miller Gallery, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh (2016)

Experimental Thinking: Design Practices, Griffith University Art Museum, Brisbane (2015)

Experimental Practice: Provocations in and Out of Design, RMIT Design Hub, Melbourne (2015)

Feral Experimental, University of New South Wales Galleries, Sydney (2014)

Zoë Veness

Zoë Veness is Lecturer and Education Director at the School of Art & Design, Faculty of Arts, Design and Architecture, UNSW. Her research focuses on contemporary jewellery practice and relationships between objects, the body and place. Recent projects include Return Loop (2020) for Made/Worn: Australian Contemporary Jewellery, a national touring exhibition organised by the Australian Design Centre; and Wayfaring (2019-2022), a collaborative exhibition project with the University of Tasmania. Her solo exhibitions include New Terrain in an Old World at Craft ACT: Craft and Design Centre, Canberra (2017), funded by the Australian Council for the Arts; To make an end is to make a beginning, her PhD examination exhibition at UNSW Art & Design (2014); The Infinite Fold at Jam Factory: Contemporary Craft and Design, Adelaide (2009) and Mathematical Beauty at the Australian Design Centre, Sydney (2006-2007). Her contemporary jewellery is held in public collections including the National Gallery of Australia and the Art Gallery of South Australia.