Cornell University

SAP Seminar Series: "Space of ‘Pattini’ Ritual as a negotiation and tension of identity" by Waruni Anuruddhika

Monday, March 6, 2017 at 12:15pm to 1:15pm

Uris Hall, G08 109 Tower Road, Ithaca, NY 14850

People’s sense of identity appears in a time of crisis. Particularly, in a context of social exclusion and marginalization, victimized groups might reconsider their sense of identities. Consequently, excluded groups may yield possible strategies to respond to the hurdles which emanate from the social exclusion. The marginalized group’s embracing the dominant identity is an example for such strategic movement. In such occasions, sense of identity is reinterpreted and boundaries between old forms of identity and newly embraced identity become blurred. The new identity becomes a mere cloth or mask to cover the previous one.

However, inconsistencies of the two forms of identities may appear through daily activities or cultural practices. A small, marginalized community living in Veyangoda, Sri Lanka is an emblem to the above proposition. The community is formed out of the people who belong to the different categories of Tamil ethnic communities in Sri Lanka. They work as casual laborers and garbage collectors to the municipal council and live in a small plot of land on cemetery grounds. It is a poverty stricken community whose overall way of life has marginalized its inhabitants from the rest of the neighborhood. To gain recognition, the community members appear as Sinhalese and hold a ‘Pattini’ ritual annually. While this ritual attracts the public, it also reflects the changes of ritual patterns opposite to the dominant Pattini worshipping rituals. For example, gender and ethnic divisions sometimes become obsolete, and social hierarchies are ignored. Through such changes, the ritual demonstrates the tension between two forms of social and cultural identities.

Waruni Anuruddhika is an independent Sri Lankan filmmaker and art photographer. She began her career as an art photographer in 1996. She followed a three-year diploma course at the National Photographic Art Society of Sri Lanka. Her first solo photography exhibition, “Contested Space”, was held in 2007 at the Harold Peiris Gallery, Colombo. Anuruddhika has focused on filmmaking since 2011. She completed a diploma specializing in cinematography in film and television at the Sri Lanka Television Training Institute. In 2012 she was awarded by International Movies that Matter in the Netherlands. Her most distinguished films include Sea is Our Life, Victoria Home, and Children of Cemetery Dwellers. These films have garnered her international recognition as a documentary filmmaker. Gifts and Visions is her first feature length documentary. It has contributed to research about human tissue donation in Sri Lanka, which was studied by Professor Bob Simpson in the Department of Anthropology, University of Durham, UK. In 2015 she participated with three other artists in the photographic exhibition “(i)mage”, which was held at Theertha Red Dot Gallery in Colombo. In the same year Anuruddhika took part as a guest filmmaker and speaker at the Asian Research Institute in National University, Singapore. Currently she is continuing research for a photographic book on ritualistic worship of the goddess Pattini by a marginalized community in urban Sri Lanka, on which her documentary film, Children of Cemetery Dwellers, is based. The project granted her a Fulbright professional scholarship award in 2016-2017.

Event Type



Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Asian Studies, South Asia Program


Contact E-Mail

Contact Name

Daniel Bass

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Waruni Anuruddhika

Speaker Affiliation

Independent filmmaker and photographer; Fulbright Scholar, Cornell University

Disability Access Information

Wheelchair accessible, assisted listening device available

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