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A Potent Performance, both ways

Updated: May 31, 2023

Sunnyside was excited about a visit from a group of Sri Lankan performance artists with the children inquisitive about how to communicate as only one of them was conversant in English. The children decorated and set the stage for the artists to perform. While waiting for their arrival, we had a discussion about Sri Lanka, the civil war and the recent economic crisis that hit the island country.

They arrived and after the initial introductions, we got to know that Mrs. And Mr. Sampath along with two of their students (a college goer who is a street artist and a photographer with an impressive professional Nikon camera) and an associate (Mr. Dumindu aka Dumi) had come to attend and perform at the Kochi Biennale. The couple were government school teachers and Dumi – a photo journalist. Our children had a lot of questions for them about their personal experience of the civil war, interaction with the Sri Lankan Tamils, the economic crisis, their experience at the Kochi Biennale, their work, photo journalism, why performance arts including the model of their mobile phones. They also wanted to listen to common phrases in Sinhalese and tried pronouncing a few words but everyone was inquisitive about their performance. Dumi and Sampath’s parents were Sinhalese peasants and they shared their knowledge and experience of the civil war, their interactions with the Sri Lankan Tamils, the political developments, and that Tamil is also an official language of Sri Lanka now.

Dumi being conversational in English mediated the conversation with the others who spoke Sinhala. They had been sceptical about interacting with a bunch of school children as they have only worked with college students or above 18 years as only then it’s easy to understand the conceptual portrayal done in performance art.

We moved to the terrace as they needed a larger space to perform. Dumi and Sampath informed us that their performance was unplanned. They encouraged our children (their audience) to be interactive with their performance on a cue. The theme of the performance was graphite mining. It was an intense performance and children participated in it by drawing the elements of nature along with the artists, observing them and spontaneously started to infer from the performance as to how nature provides humans who create more to benefit from it but then go on to exploit it eventually destroying nature and in the end themselves dying. Dumi and others were happy to see the children interpret the challenging and unconventional way of explaining a concept.

Time flew and Dumi’s next performance at another school got cancelled. Luckily for us, we had lunch together with the Sunnyside hosts keen to serve them a taste of some simple yet tasty menu. Lunch was followed by a pantomime and monodrama performance of the college-going student of Mr. Sampath which enthralled the children. The day came to an end with our visitors equally excited and delighted to interact with our children. They told that they had not encountered school students who had questioned them on such different subjects or issues. They were inspired by our children’s understanding, questioning and the innovative learning style at Sunnyside. Another experience for our Sunnyside children that captivated their emotions augmenting their knowledge, worldview and skills.

Our heartfelt thanks to Hafiz Khan for making this experience possible for our children. Hafiz Khan is spear leading a wonderful effort of 'oxygenating' our world through man made urban forests. You can learn more about his work here - CommuniTREE

Authored by

Naqeeb Sultana

Facilitator, Sunnyside

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