Sri Lanka Design Festival: Editorial, promotional and environmental

Sri Lanka Design Festival is one of our biggest annually recurring commissions. Having written for the event since its inception ten years ago, our relationship with the SLDF brand is quite strong. Everything, from writing the content that promotes the event, news and press material to crafting written pieces that provide on-site information and inspiration during the event are all within our scope.

SLDF annually hosted many fringe events with their own identities. Often one of our biggest challenges was in maintaining a consistent brand voice while not losing the individuality of each fringe event.
Writing and editing press and media pieces for Sri Lanka Design Festival often involved interviews and connecting the many components of the festival.
Often, we would be involved in coining the linguistic theme of the festival. The Local/Global theme we developed for 2012 festival edition is still one of our favourites. The thematic identity here was developed by Thilini Perera.
In some festival editions, depending on the set designer’s vision for the year, there will be informative content displayed at the event. In this case, our scope always stretches to include environmental writing components like these pieces at the 2014 festival.

Colombo Design Studio: Digital content

Colombo Design Studio is Sri Lanka’s first product design studio, and for the longest time, the only one. Its founder Lee Bazalgette is one of the most pragmatic designers we’ve met. Like him, CDS is also a function-first, minimal, fuss free brand. Writing their website content, our task was to make it interesting and in line with this brand identity of the studio. CDS is also an approachable brand, which we interpreted as an easy-going, semi-formal conversational tone.

Design starts here: AOD academic prospectus

We’ve been working with the pioneering design academy AOD for over ten years now, giving them consultation in strategy, branding and creating written content for all their work from proposals, pitches to promotions. As for any educator, one of the key promotional pieces for AOD is its academic prospectus. Every few years they invest considerable thought, energy and funds to rewrite and redesign a prospectus that resonates their most current offering, thinking and opportunities. Being an intensely active entity with large amounts of industry collaborations, events and projects, condensing all this into an academic prospectus along with information like curricula, course structures, faculty and alumni stories, is always a challenge for the writer and designer alike. Our writing was combined with the Indian designer Pushpi Bagchi for this edition of the AOD academic prospectus.

Speaking to the school’s recruiters, we understood that only a few people actually take the time to read the content through, and that most people prefer a quick browse. Therefore, we mixed in bold statements with supporting copy to cement in important content that needed to be processed by readers browsing through the pages fast, and those taking their time to go through all content.

South Asian Apparel Leadership Forum; promotional and editorial content

The South Asian Apparel Leadership Forum is probably the most interesting knowledge-sharing platform the the regional fashion business. We personally love being part of this forum each year to listen to incredible speakers from around the world, like The Future Laboratory—the world’s leading trend forecasting agency, and Bandana Tewari—the former editor of Vogue India. When Public Works was commissioned to create the annual theme, look-and-feel and the promotional content for the forum, we were excited because this was a chance to capture the depth of knowledge and fashion business intel shared at one of our favourite platforms.

The challenge for the writer was maintaining a tone that was formal—so that the local business audience would take it seriously, and a voice that was fresh—so that the local creative sector would also respond as a secondary audience.

Some of the content we developed was very detailed—like this post-event piece which summed up the event with its best moments and the most important business intel discussed at the conference. Here, it was important to highlight all the key speakers, and the ideas that they presented.

Serendip Strings: digital and print content for music educational charity

Serendip Strings is an interesting children and music based charity set up in Sri Lanka by an Australian musician who wanted to share learning opportunities with rural children. When they approached us to create online content for them, we understood that the challenge was in creating flexible content that worked for web, and print. The idea was to give them a piece that could be used for information, or as a proposal to present to stakeholders, partners and possible investors.

When speaking to our client, we discovered a beautiful sentiment behind Serendip Strings that touched on bringing people together through music; we wanted to give this a focal point through the writing so that the reader will understand how much impact this project can really have.

Stronger where broken: Anoma Wijewardene interview story

We have been working with the prominent contemporary Sri Lankan artist Anoma Wijewardene for years. Anoma’s commissions for stories are always a challenge because they need to capture the complexity of her art and the emotions behind it. From a professional point of view, it was important for Anoma to bring in her future work, collaborations and partnerships to stories, and it was part of the writer’s challenge to incorporate these without compromising the flow and emotion of the story on Art. This particular piece was on Anoma’s latest international show during the legendary Venice Biennale. The monumental significance of the Biennale and a Sri Lankan artist’s presence there made the story an important one, and was featured on The Sunday Times in June 2019.

Life can break us; But, courage allows the healing that makes us stronger where we were once broken. When Anoma Wijewardene was invited to exhibit at the European Cultural Centre’s Personal Structures: Identities, a collateral exhibition of the Venice Biennale, it was her series Kintsugi, which explores the search for harmony and renewal in a world of unconscionable intolerance and division, which she chose to submit. True to Anoma’s artistic voice that has always commented on what goes unnoticed despite it burning in our very midst, these works were a reflection on fragmented and wounded societies, and reflecting upon our common humanity in the face of conflict, misguided religious fervour and human insecurity—a conversation that is more relevant to Sri Lanka than ever before. The installation Kintsugi invites us to accept the stewardship we share of our fragile planet. Within days of returning from Venice, Anoma Wijewardene joined for an interview about what it meant to have ‘Kintsugi’ shown to a global audience at a time when the emotions behind it returned in full force after Easter 2019, and how she sees art as a crucial part of our cultural and social dialogue.

It was 2014 when Anoma started painting the series that will be viewed by thousands over the next five months of the duration of the legendary Biennale in Venice. At the time, she was dealing with her emotions on the racial tensions mushrooming around Sri Lanka. Longing for a real reconciliation and ‘togetherness’, Anoma was drawn to the Japanese art of restoration ‘Kintsugi’—which translates to golden seams. Here, shattered fragments are fused with gold enamel, revealing and embracing, rather than disguising the mistakes. It is a concept which calls for seeing beauty in the flawed and imperfect and celebrates reconstruction and re-unification. She found a powerful message in this statement on the necessity of reconciliation for survival, and the strength in embracing our history and our differences. She found that perceiving breakage and repair as part of life that needs no disguise and must be central to the attitudes that make for reconciliation and renewal.

Half a decade after the series was originally created and the work was being reconstructed to be a part of ‘Identities’ Anoma was struck by how the relevance of ‘Kintsugi’ also resurfaced. “Easter was just ten days before I flew out. The work had been shipped already but I couldn’t help but notice how apposite it was” she says. But, this is precisely the power of art; artistic work that stems from the human core will always move parallel to our own evolution, and even collective destinies. The ringing relevance that ‘Kintsugi’ bore to critical social issues resonated with the curators, and the overall theme—‘May You Live In Interesting Times’; a title encompassing the highly polarised and turbulent times the world is currently experiencing.

Speaking about being invited to show at a collateral show of the Venice Biennale—or the Olympics of art as Forbes deems it—Anoma was both humbled and grateful. The last time that Sri Lanka had the honour was seventy years ago, with the inclusion of the 43 group at the Arsenale. “The project’s complexity and the scale itself had me taken back a little, but at the same time, I knew it was a collateral exhibition of THE Venice Biennale! A six month viewing period, close to an estimated 500,000 visitors, and most importantly, an opportunity for Sri Lanka to share a voice on diversity, unity and healing—something I felt the world really needed right now. I am so grateful to the curators of the European Cultural Centre for including my work in their exhibition.”

Anoma said that showing in Venice, at the Palazzo Bembo by the Rialto Bridge on the Canale Grande, was daunting; but she felt that the entire Biennale was a collective statement from the world’s artists, looking to stimulate an understanding on how we relate to each other and the planet across the social and cultural divide. “Borders are powerful symbols, whether political, religious, cultural or psychological. The Personal Structures curators were focusing on how division forces us to look closely at our own identity and distinguish between the ‘self’ and the ‘other’; the ‘us’ and ‘them’. But, how do we find beauty in our differences and cherish our cultural commonality? Kintsugi is a work that invites us to embrace our diversity and understand how it makes our experience richer.”

Kintsugi installation has a quiet intensity; it grows on you, and takes hold of you with a ‘broken togetherness’. This quiet intensity is elevated with the inclusion of powerful poetry and haunting music to create a book and a video installation. “Multimedia, mixed media and sensory immersion with a video installation, and a book…..it was a mix of all these that completed Kintsugi.”

The poetry followed the art when Anoma’s childhood friend writer and poet Romesh Gunesekera visited her in 2015 while she was painting the series. He was moved. “I just mused out loud about him writing a paragraph or two for it; and some months after, out came this incredible poetry that was crafted using shards and fragments, just like my art. They examined the fundamentals of the paintings in a parallel process of separation and renewal. I felt that ideas like isolation, conflict, displacement, as well as reconciliation, healing and harmony, were expressed even more profoundly when the images and the words came together.” When Anoma went still further to incorporate music and video into the art, she was opening the experience out to yet another dimension. What grips you in the video with Anoma’s art and Romesh’s poetry, is the music. So precisely composed, so hauntingly evocative, the music was specifically created for the art by Sharon Smith who synthesised the words recited by Romesh with tones from several cultures and music genres. The Canadian music editor and composer based in Los Angeles has worked with Hollywood directors, playwrights and choreographers. “All these collaborations evolved organically, through friendships. I was so fortunate to have the wonderful response from Romesh to Sharon, and so many others whose input was so crucial”, Anoma says. Despite her true love being pure painting, Anoma has clearly never been afraid to explore other realms. Even in Venice, Anoma’s installation carries a another element, with the scent of cinnamon—a fragrance so closely linked to the spice island of Sri Lanka—incorporated into the work;  “ Spices must have traversed the Silk Route from ancient Ceylon to the emporia of the City State of Venice for centuries; and so it seems I have naturally now moved into the realm of olfactory art,” she says.

Kintsugi will remain in Venice for another five months. During this time, five hundred thousand minds are expected to encounter and engage with the art at the European Cultural Centre’s two palazzos. And to them all, Anoma’s art will present a brave new perspective on what hopes there are for reconciliation and harmony—a viewpoint that comes from Sri Lanka, an island struggling to heal, yet trying nevertheless.

Taking this powerful story out to a global audience was made possible by a collective of patrons who understood the significance of art in crafting Sri Lanka’s international image; “The John Keells Foundation and Cinnamon Life, Ceylon Tea, the National Lotteries Board, AOD, Etihad Airways and a few amazing individuals were part of taking this work to Venice. They were so incredibly generous and progressive in their thinking to understand the importance of a Sri Lankan presence there. I am deeply indebted to them for believing in my work and understanding its message. Thank you!”

Anoma’s work over the last two decades has extensively covered topics like climate change and the call for a collective harmony and peaceful coexistence. Her last major international group show was in 2016 at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, where Anoma was the only South Asian artist in the exhibition ‘One Belt One Road’. Her monograph was just launched in London in March 2019 and will soon be released in Sri Lanka.

The story is also available on The Sunday Times online edition here.

#ReadyforTomorrow: film script

 

This video script was commissioned by Sri Lanka’s leading design college AOD. The brief was to capture the energy of young people who aspire to change the world with their creativity. The video script was given a tone of rebelliousness that syncs with the undercurrents of youth culture, while embracing the potential held by young people to build a different tomorrow, by nurturing their skills. The words were carefully chosen to be aspirational and positive connecting to the idea of the future and tomorrow, while also bringing in word choices that hint at being courageous. This video played a critical role as a powerful social media advertisement, and the client succeeded in making its recruitment targets expected from this campaign.

 


Tomorrow is a new place.

The rules have been remade.

Innovation, radical thinking and creativity run the world.

New ideas make the world.

Ideas like clothing that enhance lives.

Languages that break boundaries

Spaces that influence human wellbeing


Stories that change the way we see the world


Businesses that build new parallels in our experience.

This tomorrow needs a different kind of person at the lead.

The kind that believes,
the kind that thinks different,
the kind that dares to dream big.

(Dramatic pause)

What about you?

(Pause)

(The music and film recommences with new and intensity)


Get #readyfortomorrow with AOD.

www.aod.lk/readyfortomorrow

Island experiences + enterprise must-knows: international prospectus

This editorial project was commissioned by the Sri Lankan design college—AOD, as part of its international campaign to attract students from overseas. Considering the target audience, the words, tone and the ideas brought into the text were carefully considered. These elements were crafted to be in line with the thinking and aspirations of twenty-something-year-olds in predominantly European markets. At the same time, content was also developed with the idea of presenting a modern design education destination out of Sri Lanka, bringing in strategic direction to the writing.

Click here to view entire document