The platform created by art is often used as a voice to tell a story, to create, to speak to humankind and society. Art can evolve in its own mindset, but it also changes existing morals. It is the power wielded by the artists and Dillai Joseph uses her power in the attempt to save our home; exploring Daily ARTRA’s theme for the month of April- sustainability, through the use of natural resources in the endeavour to preserve and maintain a balanced environment. How does she do it?

    Daily ARTRA’s Artist of The Week, Dillai Joseph is a self-taught artist, effortlessly creating work inspired by Nadine David who was a student of David Paynter. With over 15 years of experience, Dillai’s work could be described as a mix of classical and contemporary while she experiments with different textures and mediums to bring her art alive. Qualified in Communication Design (Curtin University, Perth Australia) and Marketing (CIM), she is a co-founder of her own creative adshop, ‘The Next Big Think’ after often filling in roles of Art Director and Creative Director in some of the well-known advertising agencies in Sri Lanka. Her recent project, in collaboration with artist ‘Charith de Silva, focuses on the factors affecting Earth. In this collection, our theme ‘sustainability’ will be strongly perceived and contributes to our venture.
    ‘Project Sanniya’ was born from an innate cultural practice depicting ‘masked demons’ or a ‘sanni’ – which means ‘disease’ or ‘ailment’ – that contribute to the gradual deterioration of our planet. The concept points to the illusion that our minds have fallen under – being possessed by these modernday demons, polythene, plastic, pesticides, toxic chemicals, deforestation and sound – feeding on and reaping the consequences of, each day. The ‘sanni’ has now evolved and progressed and plagues us more every day. The notion points out how we as humankind, have brought this destruction upon ourselves and keep fostering this unhealthy abnormality. Inspired by the ancient Sinhalese tradition of “sanniyakuma” or more commonly known as the “dahaatasanniya” is a traditional Sinhalese exorcism ritual that was performed in the southern and western parts of the country. It is still performed as a performance ritual but more from a cultural aspect than an exorcism ritual.
    This project consists of six ‘sanniyas’ including the Polythene Sanniya that portrays suffocation of every little living being around us: our land, our waterways, ourselves.; cancerous, choking, stifling and strangling. Polythene packs not only our consumables, but has entwined its noose tightly around our livelihood; the KruminashakaSanniya portraying overuse of pesticides and its consequences – unnatural, disabled, and deformed. It is envisioning of future generations that may have a similar resemblance to this Sanniya, with birth defects and physical deformity; the Gas KapanaSanniya portraying deforestation: a plague so universally present and so fatal, that it can wipe out entire communities in the blink of an eye. Wiping out our forest cover dries out agricultural land, wreaks havoc on the weather pattern. The two harsh extremities of drought and flooding are portrayed in this two-faced mask decorated by the tools used to cause such terror- axes, chain saws; the Carbon Sanniya portrays the toxic chemicals we breathe in, such as carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides and sulphur oxides; the Plastic sanniya: a demon so deeply infused into our very being, that it now functions as our lives’ second skin. Indestructible, yet a slow and sure destroyer of life. This depiction of Plastic sanniya is inhuman and brutally honest as it laughs at society, its plastic bottle capped teeth gleaming; the SabdhaSanniya: a depiction of the destruction caused by noise pollution, an equally merciless contributor.
    It is said that the truest way to betterment, is an effort put together. The project aims to speak to the general public, a call to arms to help make our environment a better place. The ‘Sanniya’ project strives to get people to start recognising themselves as the root of the environmental deterioration they see around them; to instil the realization that they possess the power to make or break their own future; to showcase different aspects of environmental pollution and the role they play in every aspect; to use cultural and traditional practices and then ‘re-evolving them to address modern day issues. This venture openly questions us, asking us to look deeper inside ourselves and find that we are to be made saviours of our planet, to save ourselves, our home and our future.
    Art fused with sustainability is not a new concept and its history goes further back in the timeline of the art evolution. It was not until the 15th and 16th Centuries, that the acts of painting depended on nature, more commonly with Flemish and German artists. After the arrival of Baroque, Romanticism, Impressionism, then Post-impressionism and later movements, there developed a keen interest in the use of sustainable and natural resources. With the arrival of the new age, the artistic community continued to develop art that was sustainable, recognizing its impact on the environment. Artists now seek to enhance the use of natural resources in their work while extending limits and breaking boundaries by not limiting it to the one-dimensional medium but also taking it to greater lengths and applying the idea in physical mediums such as this project – not only is it sustainable art, but it also makes society aware of the imminent catastrophe.

Perhaps our voices can cause a greater change too if we wield our greatest power. So let’s chip in, and contribute to this great foundation – the ‘sanni’ will continue to possess society but we find Dillai Joseph and Charith de Silva’s efforts a true progression.

ARTRA is Sri Lanka’s Art Magazine exploring curated content on Sri Lanka’s visual art, performance art, applied art and written art. Launched in 2012, ARTRA Magazine is a compact monthly art read providing a comprehensive understanding on Sri Lankan artists, art events, monthly art calendars and the Sri Lankan design landscape. In sum, all you need to know about art in Sri Lanka.