The Seventh Edition of Colomboscope: Language is Migrant

This edition of the festival reflects on linguistic bodies traversing geographies and shaping social worlds

Contemporary arts festival COLOMBOSCOPE took place from 20 – 30 January 2022, continuing its founders’ and collaborators’ intentions to explore interdisciplinary practice. Combining Colombo, the city in Sri Lanka in which the festival takes place, with the word ‘scope’ articulates this intention. This portmanteau emphasises locality and situatedness, immediately drawing attention to the city which provides the context for this exploration, while simultaneously communicating the desire for dialogue, investigation and possibilities for expansion presented through the word ‘scope’.

Pınar Öğrenci, Turkish Delight, 2021-22, Video still. Co-commissioned by Colomboscope with support from Locus Athens, individual donors from Syros and Goethe-Institut Sri Lanka.

Each festival edition since its inception in 2013 has offered specific thematic avenues of dissection and experimentation and has included the work of intergenerational artists, writers, musicians, filmmakers, social theorists and scientific researchers from Sri Lanka and across the globe. Place and space has also been a key translator and environment for the unfolding and showcasing of these cultural practitioners at the festival, with important historic sites in Colombo being the backdrop and additional actors in the festival’s manifestation each year.

The seventh edition of the festival took place this year, taking its thematic path from a poem-manifesto by Chilean artist and poet Cecilia Vicuña titled Language is Migrant. Curated by Anushka Rajendran with artistic director Natasha Ginwala, this edition stretches and thickens ways in which one thinks about the process of migration and what this form of mobility enables. Pointing out the fact that circulation is primordial to all forms of life, the festival team suggests that we often don’t consider the ways linguistic bodies traverse geographies and shape social worlds composed of polyphonic tongues and fragmented memory fields. This edition embraced thoughts and existences regarding hybridity, diasporic identities, interconnectedness, embodied narratives and memory. Across six spaces or chapters were explorations of how language relations form our selfhood and affinities that outweigh the bind of nationhood and citizenship. These spaces included Colombo Public Library, Lak Cafe at the Viharamahadevi Park, Rio Complex, W A Silva Museum and Printing Press, Barefoot Gallery and Lakhmahal Community Library.

Demonstrating the engagement with space and migration in all its forms is the project The Hearing Voices Café Colombo, an element of the daily programming at Lak Cafe. The Hearing Voices Café, initiated by Dora García has manifest across different parts of the world and includes a newspaper (digital and physical) made by its participants. During the festival, in collaboration with Sri Lankan performance artist Jayampathi Guruge, Dora García realised the Hearing Voices Café in Sri Lanka for the first time. It also featured several guest artists, performers, activists and writers.

Hearing Voices Café Colombo. Photo by Lojithan Ram

This edition embraces
thoughts and existences
regarding hybridity, diasporic identities,
interconnectedness, embodied narratives
and memory.

The festival included over 50 participants, with several commissioned and long-term projects mobilising acts of transmission that embrace collective synergies. The channeling of sonic frequencies, live acts and spaces of reading became elemental instruments that sustain the traffic of creative processes, biographical timekeeping, engaged listening and senses of diasporic belonging.

The pandemic forcing the team to transfer the original time for this edition to two years later has allowed for ideas and projects to marinate longer. It has also enabled an exciting addition of online appendages existing as precursors to the physical event and digital migrants that transmit beyond physical space, while reflecting on situatedness. These include commissioned publishing by Scroll Thru, radio episodes of A Thousand Channels and artist projects. Click the home page to view the full digital programme.

Click here to view the full festival programme.

Rupaneethan Pakkiyarajah, Connections and Lands I, 2021, Brush and ink on paper. Courtesy of the artist.

Full list of participating artists

Aaraniyam, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Mounira Al Solh, We Are From Here, Abdul Halik Azeez, Palash Bhattacharjee, Muvindu Binoy, Shailesh BR, Lavkant Chaudhary, Jason Dodge, Liz Fernando, Dora García with Jayampathi Guruge, Aziz Hazara, Baaraan Ijlal, Omar Kasmani, Areez Katki, T. Krishnapriya, Mariah Lookman, Imaad Majeed, Danushka Marasinghe, Vijitharan Maryathevathas, Sharika Navamani, Yoshinori Niwa, Christian Nyampeta, Pınar Öğrenci, Packiyanathan Ahilan, Rupaneethan Pakkiyarajah, Pallavi Paul, Rajni Perera, Saskia Pintelon, Mano Prashath, Ahilan Ratnamohan, M. T. F. Rukshana, Marinella Senatore with Hasanthi Niriella and Ashley Fargnoli, Hema Shironi, Hanusha Somasundaram, Pangrok Sulap, Anojan Suntharam, Slavs and Tatars, Thisath Thoradeniya, A Thousand Channels, Iffath Neetha Uthumalebbe, Cecilia Vicuña, T. Vinoja, Elin Már Øyen Vister, Omer Wasim, Jagath Weerasinghe, Belinda Zhawi.

Reading Room Contributors

Additional contributors to Reading in Tongues, Colomboscope’s Reading Room at Lakmahal Community Library include Indran Amirthanayagam, Kadak Collective, Mythri Jegathesan, kal, Kumari Kumaragamage, Mantiq of the Mantis, The Packet, SCROLL: Projects on Paper, Mounira Al Solh and Nada Ghosn, T. Thajendran, Bombay Underground.

Abdul Halik Azeez, Untitled, 2021, Inkjet print on paper. Courtesy of the artist.

Jason Dodge, They lifted me into the sun again and packed my skull with cinnamon, 2020, Mixed media. Courtesy of the artist.

Elin Már recording Soundscape Røst: The Listening Lounge in Ellevsnyken, 2014 (photo: Jason Rosenberg). Courtesy of the artist.


Click here to access the Language is Migrant catalogue.
Click here to revisit the festival programme.
Click here to view the press release with details on the interventions at each site.
Click here to access a special composition made for the project by Pangrok Sulap
Click here to access The Hearing Voices Café Paper
Follow COLOMBOSCOPE on Instagram and Facebook