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Canceled: CANCELED: Artistic Responses to the Covid-19 Pandemic and Aragalaya (People’s Struggle) in Sri Lanka

Monday, March 13, 2023 at 11:00am

Virtual Event

Talk by Indu Gamage (Visiting Fulbright Scholar, Cornell University & English, University of Ruhuna, Sri Lanka)

The Covid-19 global outbreak and Aragalaya (People’s Struggle) marks the most challenging experiences Sri Lankan society has undergone in its recent history. From March 2020, due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, Sri Lankan society experienced a series of novel conditions: locking down of the country, social distancing, self-quarantine, and many other practices hitherto alien to the normal life of its inhabitants were imposed. People were confined to their homes for a substantial period of time, undergoing many different experiences due to this. By March 2022, people’s protests started erupting in response to the country’s economic crisis, culminating in a countrywide series of mass protests rallied around the main protest site at Galle Face Green in the Colombo capital. Aragalaya, the Sinhala word for this “struggle,” was the name attached to the whole set of incidents. After a substantial period of isolation and social distancing, thousands of people overpoured the country’s main cities, demanding the then-president of Sri Lanka to step down, stating that he was responsible for entrapping the country in an economic abyss. Galle Face Green, the main protest and demonstration site, became a place of daily gathering for people from numerous parts of the country to voice out their hard-felt emotions against the government. Both the pandemic and Aragalaya triggered very artistic responses as forms of catharsis. Especially the Galle Face Green became a hub of artistic activities, including an art gallery that contained a collection of paintings done in the period of Aragalaya. The artistic responses to the pandemic and Aragalaya are contrastively different from each other; the former springs out of despair, frustration, loneliness, and fear, while the latter springs out of rage, counter-attack, solidarity, and hope.   

Indu Gamage is a senior lecturer attached to the Department of English Language Teaching of the University of Ruhuna, Sri Lanka. She is on a Fulbright Scholar Award in South Asia Program at Cornell University. Gamage is a published poet and short story writer having to her credit two publications: A collection of (English to Sinhala) translated poetry of Rumi (Thutin piree giya ek mohothak;) the maiden publication of Rumi’s poetry in Sinhala in Sri Lanka and Agni, the first fully English-Sinhala bilingual publication of poetry in Sri Lanka. She is also actively involved in an Erasmus + Capacity Building for Higher Education program on disability (Developing Inclusive Education for Students with Disabilities in Sri Lankan Universities).


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





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