Dr. Saumya Liyanage and Prof. Rustom Bharucha
The International Research Symposium 2018 organized by the University of Visual and Performing Arts (UVPA) was held from December 5-7 at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute (SLFI). Limitless perspectives of contemporary arts-based research in diverse fields of humanities and social sciences were invited to view society under the chosen theme “Changing World, Challenging Boundaries.”This was the first time in the history of the University that the event was executed on an international scale.
The three-day programme encouraged discussion and interaction between artistes, researchers and academics who are currently involved in research areas pertaining to social sciences and humanities within and beyond Sri Lanka. Dr. Priyeshni Perera, a lecturer of the UVPA emphasized on how the participants were allowed to “expand their horizons through the wealth of knowledge disseminated” by the event.
Day one’s inauguration ceremony featured a vibrant musical item by six performers of the UVPA. And later, the gathering welcomed its keynote speaker for the day- Prof. Rustom Bharucha: an internationally acclaimed academic, cultural theorist and theatre practitioner. He delivered a thought-provoking lecture titled “Rethinking the Intercultural Paradigm in Troubled Time: A Search for new Practices Within, Across and Beyond Borders” whichwas introduced and chaired by Dr. Saumya Liyanage. Prof. Bharucha’s critical discourse addressed the concepts of interculturalism, nationalism and globalization in the wake of rising sectarianism, authoritarianism, and coercive migration, the role of theatre in such troubling times and ‘confronting the deadlock of existing conflicts in order to imagine new transformative possibilities of being.’
The following two days welcomed Dr. Rob Conkie and Prof. Raj Somadewa as their respective keynote speakers. Dr. Rob Conkie who is a senior lecturer at La Trobe university, Australia spoke on “eTwistermology: Embodied and Collaborative Writing,” which examined ‘the methodological affordances of synthesizing embodied and collaborative modes of thinking and writing.’
A section of the audience
Prof. Raj Somadeva, one of the well-known archaeologists in Sri Lanka and a professor at the University of Kelaniya, presented his keynote speech on“A Quest for Roots of Creativity,” which explained the creative endeavours of the early inhabitants of Sri Lanka inspired or rooted in the historical periods.
The keynote speeches of each day segued into the parallel presentation-sessions by the local and foreign participants whose submissions a panel of reviewers had selected. A wide spectrum of research topics were covered, including sociology, history/politics, gender studies, theatre historiography , media and communication, literature, management/economics etc. The relevant subject matter was discussed in the form of paper, group, poster and workshop presentations, video documentations and creative demonstrations, in either Sinhalese or English.
On the first evening of the event, the organizers also held a cultural show at the UVPA premises. This was a fusion of both Sri Lankan and Iranian cultures in the form of music and movement. The show featured the Iranian folk compositions of one of the presenters Dr. Pooyan Azadeh who spoke on‘Persian classical piano music,’ fused with rhythmic, Sri Lankan drums. It also showcased an arrangement of traditional vannam and prashasthi weaved into classical, choral music and a story telling choreography.
Understanding the endless scope of the arts, the University accepted its submissions from a variety of themes this year enabling them to not only welcome a greater response but also a global one. As stated by Dr. Perera, the whole initiative is a path to conquer boundaries by promoting “New research, new ideas and new solutions to the problems we face in this modern era.”