19 Jan 2024 - 28 Jan 2024

Colomboscope 2024

Various venues


Way of the Forest converges artistic pathways to rekindle knowledge of interdependence, custodianship, and restorative practices across rainforests, wilderness, mountain cultivations, and riverine wetlands. It invites deschooling – moving from the curriculum of plunder, reckless supremacy and extinction, to embrace active listening beyond the human sensorium. The forest as a lexicon holds a plenitude of meaning across languages: Aaranya in Tamil (ஆரண்யா) and Sanskrit relating to a sanctuary, vana (වන) in Sinhala. Bonn, Jongol, and Aranno in Bangla, guṁ in Nepal Bhasa, tēṁ in Tamu—each evoking distinct states of being, emotions, disparate imagination, and a palpable climate.

The multi-chapter exhibition at Colomboscope 2024 and accompanying events are an intricate study of our eroding ecological histories, of lost environmental wisdoms, monstrous developmental agendas, and ghosts of extraction. It endeavours to plot legacies of colonisation of resources and minds that operate in disguise. Within mutating landscapes, artists question who owns forest lands, who gets displaced, and who is restricted from sites marked for conservation.

What do the spirits of these lands, rivers, forests whisper in our ears? In many folktales, legends, and mythologies, forests are associated with apparitions, witches, and other mystical beings. These entities are often depicted as powerful and independent, existing beyond the reach of societal constraints. They are also spaces that elicit fear, of things unknown, and forces beyond human control. With the rise of imperialism the exploitation of natural resources and abuse of primary inhabitants was exacerbated as a fulfilment of greed, power, and ego. The subjugation of jungles and wildernesses then portrayed as a victory over the vastness, unruliness, mysticism of forests.

Many Indigenous peoples find themselves navigating nation-states driven by corporate capitalism and geopolitical hegemony. Throughout this struggle, there have been profound transitions marked by loss, change, resistance, and at times, even hopelessness. Revolutionaries, outcasts, borderline beings find solace and refuge within the forest’s sheltering embrace. Its dense foliage and shaded paths provide a sense of secrecy and protection, allowing those seeking autonomy and freedom to gather and organise away from prying eyes, to recalibrate uncertainty and fear, to dream of alternative power structures, of new world orders.

Anoma Wijewardene / Anupam Roy / Anushka Rustomji / U. Arulraj / Barbara Sansoni / Chija Lama / Dumiduni Illangasinghe / Fernando García-Dory / Jayatu Chakma / Karachi LaJamia / Karunasiri Wijesinghe / Kieren Karritpul / Komal Purbe, Madhumala Mandal, Rebati Mandal and Selo Yadav / Krisushananthan Inkaran / Kulagu Tu Buvongan / Laki Senanayake / Memory, Truth and Justice / Mónica de Miranda / Müge Yılmaz / Nahla al Tabbaa / Otobong Nkanga / Pankaja Withanachchi & Roshan De Selfa / Pathum Dharmarathna / Pushpakanthan Pakkiyarajah / Rakibul Anwar / MTF Rukshana / Ruwangi Amarasinghe / Sangita Maity / Sanod Maharjan / Saodat Ismailova / Sarmila Sooriyakumar with Pirainila Krishnarajah / Shehan Obeysekera / Shiraz Bayjoo / Soma Surovi Jannat / Spore Initiative with U Yits Ka’an, Colectivo Suumil Móokt’aan, Rafiki Sánchez, and Cecilia Moo / Subas Tamang / Sunita Maharjan and Sanjeev Maharjan / Tamarra Jayasundera / Thava Thajendran / The Initiative for Practices and Visions of Radical Care with Myriam Mihindou, Tawfiq Sediqi and Elena Sorokina / Thujiba Vijayalayan / Trent Walter / Venuri Perera and Eisa Jocson / Zihan Karim.

A Thousand Channels with Syma Tariq / BLAK C.O.R.E. / Chennai Photo Biennale / Collective of Contemporary Artists (CoCA) / Dharamshala International Film Festival with Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam / KACHA KACHA with Imaad Majeed / Kälam Ka(ra)mi / Ghost 2561-2565 with Korakrit Arunanondchai & Christina Li / Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Sri Lanka (MMCA) / Musicmatters / Non-Applicable (N/A) with Asvajit Boyle and Nigel Perera / Norient with Coco Em / Parrotfish Collective / Small Cat Advocacy and Research (SCAR) with Firi Rahman / The Packet / Visual Art and Experiences Group (VAEG) among others.

Press release from Colomboscope

Image: Ruwangi Amarasinghe. Reverence: to the Unspeaking. 2021. Acrylic and mixed media on canvas. 152.4 x 213.36 cm. Commissioned by Colomboscope 2024. Image courtesy of the artist and Colomboscope

Colombo, Sri Lanka