October 2015 marked fifteen years since the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. To celebrate this anniversary, FOKUS WOMEN launched a traveling exhibition and theatre performance entitled Searching for and Elusive Peace: Women in Times of Transition on December 8th at the J.D.A Perera Gallery in Colombo followed by a reception.
Women, Visual and Creative Arts and Communication is one of the main thematic areas of the FOKUS Sri Lanka Programme. For the past two years, the FOKUS WOMEN, the FOKUS Country Office in Sri Lanka has engaged with a number of young male and female artists from different ethnicities who wanted to depict their notions of women and peace building through visual art. These young artists have been affected by the war and have their own personal story to tell through their art. A collection of paintings, sculptures, drawings and mix media depicting different perspectives of these artists were exhibited.
The five short plays staged on December 8th were directed by Kaushalya Fernando. They explored the complex issues faced by women from different ethnic communities who have been affected by the war. Each play was approximately ten minutes. After each one ended, a discussion, moderated in Sinhala and English by Sanjana Hattotuwa, engaged with audience responses and comments. Comments in Tamil also featured in these audience interactions. The themes of the plays included the reintegration of a female ex-combatants, violence against women, how language acts as barrier for women when accessing government services, women’s access to land and issues faced by Muslim women.
In addition to the art, Groundviews encouraged FOKUS to take the short plays, which were all equally compelling, around the country. Each short play was a refreshing critical perspective on the issue it was anchored to, eschewing the usual subjects, stereotypes and frames, questioning gender bias, power, privilege, identity and patriarchy. Ultimately, the plays grappled with the nature of systemic violence, often invisible or rendered ‘normal’. Kaushalya’s group did without the use of spoken language, with just simple props, the most basic of lighting and a minuscule budget what in comparison English theatre, with far more resources, hasn’t come even close to achieving in terms of a critical engagement with enduring systemic violence, post-war.
See the art and photos from the evening of the productions here. Also embedded below.