Between the Memory and the Outsider-Ness
One of the primary aim for the South Asian Literature and Art Festival, 2019, is of maintaining uniqueness and diversity on multiple grounds. Be it of the elementary understanding of a geographic spread across the region, to the various forms of practices, the working timelines, the focus and interests and the individual manner of work engagement of the invited creative individuals. Therefore, ensuring not just a simple balanced representation on the given lines, but of providing a platform to present and addresses their individual works, in a different light, through moderated talks and public interactions. Given the same, the participation of Nayomi Munaweera, a Sri Lankan-American writer, at the festival, presents the working method in which the writer draws from her homeland and had fabricated ways to contribute, by building a growing working-networks with young creative individuals from Sri Lanka. And with respect to the SF Bay Area, it is important to mention that Nayomi has been appointed as the 2019 Connie and Robert Lurie Distinguished Author-in-Residence at San Jose State University.
It might not sound unusual stating about a diaspora artist, that he or she draws for their respective roots. But in Nayomi’s case it is not just a space for drawing inspiration, but that of continuous re-reading and re-growing from her memory. Her work titled, Island of a Thousand Mirrors, won the Commonwealth Book Prize for the Asian Region in 2013. The book was an outcome of the lived experience of her family in her childhood and a near decade-long research before its completion. With the backdrop of the civil war in Sri Lanka in the 1970s, and the subsequent unrest, which shaped the fate and future of the people, and Nayomi’s family too. It presents the lives of the individual characters, weaving the actualities, circumstances, situations, human relations and brimming dilemmas in a sensitive manner. Apart from her individual success of publishing her work, the writer has been a part of a larger project titled, Write to Reconcile, which has brought forward voices of young creative writers from Sri Lanka
The project was initiated in 2012, by Shyam Selvadurai, a Sri Lankan writer, in conjunction with the National Peace Council of Sri Lanka. Nayomi has been a co-teacher for the same. For three years young writers working on various – civic war and the post-war related issues, were provided guidance. The intent is as the name suggest a ‘peaceful reconciliation’, for Tamil and The Sinhalese survivors of the trauma. This ranged from traveling together to gather information to the very process of penning it down. This led to the materialization of three anthologies. The team aims at translating them into the regional languages.
Along with the list of awards for her other books, the recent one being, What Lies Between Us, 2016, which won the Sri Lankan National Book Award for best English novel, Nayomi, was listed in 2016 as – one of Bustle Magazine’s “Twelve Women of Color Writers You Need to Know.”
The festival shall offer a unique experience not just for established professionals but also for the emerging professionals and the young minds. Therefore, along with the presentations and discussions there shall be – children’s hands-on craft activities, writing programs, South Asian food stalls, and art-related exhibitors, dance performances, all to suit individuals of varying tastes, interests and ages.
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Vrushali Dhage, PhD in Art History and Aesthetics, specializes in Indian Contemporary Art with respect to economic globalization. She has taught at the Department of Art History and Aesthetics, M. S. University of Baroda, and as a visiting faculty at various art and design colleges in India. As a researcher and an art critic, she has published her works in various portals and print media internationally. She has curated shows on tribal arts and contemporary Indian art. Vrushali is the Editorial Curator at Art ForumSF, currently she lives and works in San Jose.