»Our ways of Knowing«

	Abonnement Zeitungen lokal November 2022 © Goethe-Institut

Monday, 13th of February at 6 PM

Goethe-Institut Colombo

Sri Lankan Knowledge Systems and Practices

The panel discussion »Our ways of Knowing« explores local knowledge systems and practices that are deeply rooted in Sri Lanka’s historical and cultural context. It critically examines the relationship between what might be termed 'modern' education, scientific research and traditioanl systems of knowledge as it interacts with socio-political contexts of colonialism, nationalisn, and the policies that govern how traditional knowledge systems are practiced and reproduced. The discussion will take place asaccompanying program of the »The Infinite Library« which is a travelling VR installation that draws on the idea of embodied knowledge and looks at how ancient knowledge has been preserved and passed on for generations.
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In conversation with the moderator Radhika Hettiarachchi, the three panelists Sulakshana de Mel, Sudesh Mantillake and Ruvi Rodrigo will look at the local knowledge systems of Ayurveda, Rukada, Kandyan Dance and Angampora as an entry point to a deeper discussion on 'our ways of knowing' in today's context. Why do these local knowledge systems continue to matter? Where do they fit in the historical context of identity-formation? What roles do nationalism, colonialism and hybridity play in assigning intrinsic value to these practices? How do we 'decolonise the global mind' to navigate the contradictions inherent in placing local knowledge systems as more than 'just the wisdom of the elders' but as a systematised and conscious set of practices in a context where they often struggle to find compatibility with more westernised epistemological and ideological thinking on how knowledge systems could and should work? 

About the Moderator

Radhika Hettiarachchi is a researcher, curator and development practitioner with over 18 years of experience in the field of peacebuilding. She uses oral history, facilitated dialogue and the arts as channels for creating a public discourse on conflict transformation, security, transitional justice, democratic values and non-recurrence of violence. She has worked at UNDP and International Alert in the area of conflict prevention and post-war recovery by way of creating socio-economic stabilisation through business and corporate responsibility, strengthening civil society through community dialogue, and media outreach and engaging Sri Lankan diaspora for peace. Her work on public history includes initiating and curating the Herstories Project and the Community Memorialisation Project both of which use verbal and non-verbal forms of expression to collect and archive people’s life histories and lived experiences of violent conflict as well as indigenous rituals and practices, and socio-cultural commonalities that promote coexistence. These curated exhibitions and  have been used to create a public discourse at the grassroots levels in Sri Lanka on what 'peace could mean for us as a pluralistic society' . She also curated Colomboscope for two years, on themes such as development and urbanity, and narrativising 'memory'. 

About the Panelists

Sulakshana de Mel is Manager - Museums at the Collective for Historical Dialogue & Memory. She has received her training as a Social and Cultural Anthropologist from the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge in the United Kingdom. While pursuing her studies at Oxford University, she also had the opportunity to work at the Pitts Rivers Museum.

Equipped with over 18 years of work experience in the development sector, she has worked in different parts of South Asia and in Germany. During the last 8 years she worked as a Technical Advisor at GIZ Sri Lanka and has given leadership to a team that is dedicated to the promotion of a historical dialogue and memory culture. During her formative years of education in Mexico and later in other parts of the world she has been exposed very early to the intrinsic cultural values in communities that pose challenges to true reconciliation. She strategically uses this experience in her present work.

Sudesh Mantillake is a dancer, choreographer, researcher, and educator. He is trained in Kandyan dance of Sri Lanka and Kathak dance of India, theatrical clowning, and contemporary dance. Apart from Sri Lanka, he has presented his work in Athens, Sharjah, London, Helsinki, Lugano, New York, Virginia, Chicago, California, Ohio, Minnesota, and Maryland. His performance pieces “My Devil Dance” and “Mask and Myths” explore Sri Lankan dancers’ experience in the “colonial exhibitions” in Europe and U.S. In his dance film In Search of Ravana.  Sudesh is a permanent faculty member and the Head of the Department at the Department of Fine Arts at the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka. He is also the Chairman of the Arts Council of the University of Peradeniya.

Ruvi Rodrigo is part of the third generation of Barberyn Ayurveda Resorts, pioneers in Ayurveda hospitality in Sri Lanka that promotes authentic Ayurveda and sustainable tourism. She completed her MSc in Art Management at EDHEC Business School in France and now manages Ayuwanna by Barberyn, Ayurveda Medical Center in Colombo where she works with a wide range of physicians and healers with different levels of expertise and experience. She's also involved in creating educational and awareness programs, courses and exhibitions on Ayurveda, medicinal plants and other related healing modalities to make the ancient knowledge accessible to a wider audience. 

The Infinite Library

The Infinite Library seeks to embed human stories within a much grander narrative, one which includes the birth of our planet and the evolution of all life forms. The ‘Library’ part of the installation is conceived as a living organism, a kind of embodiment of knowledge that introduces itself to visitors personally before inviting them to explore its house. The Infinite Library will be on view from February 13 - 18 at the Goethe-Institut Sri Lanka. The entry is free. 

“If a library can be something as simple as an organized collection of texts, then libraries massively pre-date books in the history of culture. Every country has a tradition of legends, parables, riddles, myths and chants that existed long before they were written down. Warehoused as memories, these texts passed from generation to generation through dance, gesture and word of mouth.”

The Library: A Catalogue of Wonders, 2017