When Kōlam Rebecomes: A Performative Exploration of Form, Philosophy and Contemporary Relevance of a Sinhalese Traditional Performance Practice


Subasinghe, Subasinghe Arachchige Anasuya (2018) When Kōlam Rebecomes: A Performative Exploration of Form, Philosophy and Contemporary Relevance of a Sinhalese Traditional Performance Practice. PhD thesis, Victoria University.


This research aims to explore the performative potential of the Sinhalese Kōlam tradition beyond its ‘fixed’ repertoire, to have contemporary relevance in the present socio-political context. In recognising the ideologies of preservation that define the current Kōlam practice as traditional knowledge, which manifests in its rarity on the one hand, and its common usages in the urban economic context on the other, this exploration attempts to contextualise the performance genre from a different point of entry. The perception that Kōlam is a comprehensive performance system, informed by the ontological and epistemological sensibilities of the performance maker, that in turn manifest in its aesthetic and narrative expression, is the key driver behind the research. This premodern practice, characterised by its parallel evolution to the changing social and political framework, is performed today as a ‘fixed’ repertoire with its fundamental purpose defined as preservation. Today, the presence of Kōlam in Sri Lanka is three-fold: that is, the traditional practice that continues along its ancestral ownership to traditional knowledge; the generic cultural ownership manifested in the work of scholars, theatre practitioners, the performing arts pedagogy and the presence of Kōlam in cultural commodification. However, there remains a gap in the interpretation of Kōlam as a ‘living’ evolving performance practice striving to be relevant in the contemporary socio-political and economic context. This research looks for ways of addressing this gap and is presented in the form of dramatic text and performance titled My Sweet Rotten Heritance, and an exegetical component. The creative element comprises 60% of the thesis and the exegesis, 40%. As a way of critically evaluating the ethical responsibilities and limitations of exploring a traditional performance system, the researcher positions her performance in a para-traditional premise, both facilitating and problematising the performance process.

Additional Information

Doctor of Philosophy (Performance Studies)

Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
URI https://vuir.vu.edu.au/id/eprint/39514
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 1904 Performing Arts and Creative Writing
Historical > FOR Classification > 2002 Cultural Studies
Current > Division/Research > College of Arts and Education
Keywords Kōlam; Sinhalese Kōlam; Karāva; Berava Castes; dance-theatre; My Sweet Rotten Heritance
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