Do women in the arts have a voice? How do women navigate creative spaces within cultural boundaries and norms? How do these women speak through their works and become champions of change? The discussion with The Creative Forces at the Cargills International Women’s Day Festival of The Changemakers on March 15, with three women who represent different spheres of the creative arts promises frank opinions and fiery conversation.
The one-of-a-kind Festival which is partnered by the UNFPA and is a collaboration between Taru Villas and Savithri Rodrigo, will feature Author and Publisher Ameena Hussein, Inter-disciplinary artist Layla Gonaduwa and Principal Dancer of the Chitrasena Dance Company Thaji Dias as The Creative Forces, each unique and each equally passionate about their creativity and what goes into their finished works.
“The reason these three women in the creative arts are on this panel is because their works narrate the stories of diverse voices, identities and causes,” says moderator for the Festival’s panel discussions, Savithri Rodrigo. “Each of their works, whether in the written word, in a work of art or in a performance is woven through skeins of color or in stark black and white, with individualistic traits that are unique and very identifiable in each of their disciplines. But the common factor is that their works showcase years of obsessive zeal for their magnum opus, built on a unique rhythm which is what makes them powerful forces in the larger arena of gender empowerment in
Ameena who is also the Co-Founder of Perera-Hussein Publishing House, the frontrunner for cutting edge fiction from emerging and established regional authors, has just added a non-fiction book on the 14th century Moroccan traveler Ibn Battuta to her repertoire of a novel and two collections of short stories. “The creative word can be a powerful force to create change,” she says. “I firmly believe that writing and reading can give everybody both men and women a way to ensure that justice and equality become the norm rather than the exception.”
Layla who was awarded the Pro Helvetia Swiss Arts Council residency in 2020, embarked on a unique three-month journey across Sri Lanka and in chronicled her journey on Movement and the concept of Home through her Facing Maha Blog. Currently hard at work in putting the finishing touches to that visual interpretation, she explored places where a fragile co-existence was observed as the island endured the pandemic and a new degree of social alienation, while addressing facets of migrancy from an inter-species perspective, maps ecological threats and the transplantation of alien
"Each of their works, whether in the written word, in a work of art or in a performance is woven through skeins of color or in stark black and white, with individualistic traits that are unique and very identifiable in each of their disciplines"
An extensively exhibited, interdisciplinary artist, with an aesthetically emotive, cathartic practice that deals with politics of perception, memory and ecology, she believes that gender equality is an essential part of any equation in any field, if one wants sustainable development in a free and fair society. “This inclusiveness is a pre-condition. It is simple. If you believe that all human beings deserve equal rights and opportunity in this world, then there is no need for feminist advocacy. As an artist, with a platform and following, I have used my art as a tool for challenging politics involved with these issues. Most times, haptic or visual representation makes a bigger impact and carries the message farther than the traditional modes. It is something I will continue to explore and exploit to get the
For Thaji who comes from a line of powerful female dancers including Sri Lanka’s first professional female Kandyan dancer, her grandmother Vajira and her aunt Upeka, creating equal opportunity is about the individual traits of each person devoid of gender. “Be it a man or woman, creating equal opportunity needs to happen according to the way each person is wired. One cannot do what another does.” Specializing in Kandyan dance, which is predominantly a male dance form, she examples how her grandmother who broke the stereotype to become one of the first professional female dancers in Sri Lanka, creating an essence within the technique which was uniquely her own.
As Principal Dancer of Sri Lanka’s oldest and most prestigious dance company established in the 1940s by Guru Chitrasena and the youngest granddaughter of Chitrasena and Vajira, Thaji took her first steps into dance at seven and has been on multiple global stages after her at the Theatre Du Soleil in Paris. She has performed to local and international audiences and at festivals including the Asian Arts Festival in Chinese Taipei, Montpellier Festival in France, the Sydney Festival and The Esplanade Dance Festival in Singapore. She was also one of the two members of the Chitrasena Dance Company to perform in its first international collaborative with world renowned Nrityagram Dance Ensemble in its production, Samhära, which was staged at the Royal Festival Hall, London, the Joyce Theater, The Metropolitan Museum in New York and many parts of India.
“For me it’s not about outdoing another person but rather, finding my own creative identity within the technique to bring out the best in me. That’s how successful female dancers before me have found their ground within this male dominant form.”
These are the Creative Forces being featured on March 15 - Day Three, of the Cargills International Women’s Day Festival of The Changemakers at Table by Taru, Lake Lodge Taru Villas. Seating is limited as stringent COVID-19 guidelines are being followed to create a safe environment for all participants while maintaining the intimate ambience Taru is renowned for.
Tickets are priced at Rs. 6,000 for the event with canapes and aperitifs. For more information, call 0768 119 191.