Memory Keeper

I am the ‘memory keeper.' I have become a memory keeper because I was born wedged between the sun set  of one era and dawn of another. Existing between eras is to live in a  liminal space where people forget to keep records because they are eager to forget the past and  move on to the future. Therefore, the last vestiges of the previous era and the transition itself, become insignificant moments and footnotes of history, not worth remembering in the larger contexts of events. They only become important in the nostalgias of people like me who don't belong to the histories of either era because we happened to be born in between times, in a moment of liminality. So we need a space of comfort for ourselves, a space we find entrenched within the nostalgias and memories of moments in our lives which for many people have become insignificant and mundane … So now I am grasping for and committing to memory those moments and incidents that for many people would be insignificant details …they are insignificant because they have ceased to be important to them amidst many other things in life.

Ghosts of Swarnabhumi Series (2012)

Cloth, tailor’s dummy, magnifying lenses, stuffing, images on flex paper, electrical wire and LED lights. Dimensions variable.

‘Ghosts of Swarnabhumi’ (2013) which was part of the ‘Memory Keeper’ exhibition present commentaries on the public memory in the aftermath of civil war. It refers to a golden land with charred memories. ‘Ghosts of Swarna Bhumi’ consists of three black, headless, tall, ghostly female figures with swollen bellies denoting wombs. Three more womb-like forms are positioned on the floor connected by three umbilical cords to each standing figures. These wombs, seen through a magnifying glass, carry images of Sri Lanka’s recently concluded and immensely destructive civil war. Multiple wombs refer to the magnitude of memory that is so terrible, where one womb is not enough to hold them.

Memory Cache (2013)

Wood table, metal structure, acrylic box, revolving screen, lights, printed images. Cloth balls and lenses. 71’’ x 57’’ x 34’’

Left Behinder: Bed (2013)

Iron bed, mattress, bedcovers, metal trunk, lace panels , cloth canopy, wool thread, plastic bottles, LED Screen, DVD player, video ‘ Last Doll’, duration 3.16 minutes (on a loop). (Embroidered poem Left Behinder by Jean Arasanayagam). 84” x 72” x 60”

After the Independence we were so busy building an identity to stand apart from our colonized past, but what we did not think about is how much we lost in this process of nation building which took us from Ceylon to Sri Lanka.  For sure we lost Burghers, a community that had such a vibrant presence in the olden days.  I remember growing up living next to a Burgher family and there were many others living down the lane.  Now they are all gone.  Most migrated to Australia in the early 1960s and 1970s and the rest left during the 1980s.  With them, part of Sri Lanka left too…their food, their way of life slowly started erasing from our national memory. They were in many ways very cosmopolitan than the rest of us.

“They have gone away, all of them, left me behind,

Still write to me of lamprais, love cake and breudhers,

Making merry in those distant antipodes…”

I embroidered the poem  Left Behinder by Jean Arasanayagam, a Dutch Burgher poet and writer, on the bed cover which recaptures their world that was dismantled and fast forgotten.

Rose Wallpaper: What Can I Do That is So Different to You? Series I, II &III (2013)

Print on Hahnemohle Archival Canvas. 112’’ x 54’’ (size of each work)

What do I know about women and men who peer through ornate frames icily looking silently over a table, a cupboard, a settee covered with faded flowers? Adorned in garments of a different time, are they so different to us in their desires and wishes? Have we severed the connections to a past so long ago?  I memorize their faces and caress the memorabilia left behind to signify and categorize eras, to lament and to comfort the nostalgias of others like me. Infinite possibilities of memories await just to be unlocked …they await moments of nostalgia to be revisited and a keeper who will be a posthumous repository for them.