Remaking the cosmopolitan imaginary of traditional Sri Lankan jewellery impacted by colonisation and globalisation

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Copyright: Samarasekara, Inoka
This research argues for the importance of the preservation, renewal and remaking of traditional craft culture of Sri Lanka impacted by colonisation and globalisation. In response to the erosion of the craft culture and the dearth of research on Sri Lankan cultural heritage conservation, this research explores practice-based research methods that may safeguard the richly textured Sri Lankan jewellery heritage for future generations. Continuous waves of migration, trade, invasions, colonisation by the Portuguese, Dutch and British, globalisation and the recent civil war have resulted in an increasing precarity for the craft culture of Sri Lanka. As an island comprising diverse cultures, the cosmopolitan cultural identity of Sri Lanka has been contested since the country declared independence from British colonial rule in 1948. The competing modernities that have emerged since independence are based on widening social divisions between the valuing of modernisation by the elite ruling class and the commitment to local traditions of the wider population. These tensions are broadened with the recent globalisation eroding the cosmopolitanism embodied in the island’s craft culture. To address the complexities of competing modernities in Sri Lanka the research draws on the proposition that the social imaginary is a collective social practice that produces a sense of locality, as defined by Arjun Appadurai and Charles Taylor. Within the framework of social imaginary, this research documents and reflects on a range of practice-based methods to counter the destruction of local craft traditions and the global dispersal of Sri Lankan artefacts. Through renderings I record and preserve the cosmopolitanism evident in traditional bridal regalia associated with the Kandyan period (1592-1815). In a series of necklace designs based on the symbolism of traditional Kandyan bridal regalia I renew the cosmopolitanism of the Sri Lankan craft culture for the contemporary context. In a second series of renderings and a suit of necklace designs that are based on heirlooms, keepsakes and interviews with the Sri Lankan diaspora of Sydney, I explore the remaking of Sri Lankan cosmopolitan imaginary in a diasporic context. The purpose of the research is to provide resources and models of practice for future generations of Sri Lankan craft culture.
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PhD Doctorate
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