Nana Francisca Schottländer Blog

Nana Schottlander 1

18th November 2019

My days here are so full of impressions. And weirdly random. Lacking an ordering principle I am adrift. A foreigner in a foreign landscape.

At Dodanduwa fishery harbour: A full moon dancing ritual where a troupe of dancers whirled for fishing luck, good weather and incoming money for the fishermen from 8 PM to 5 AM. The dancers and the drummers making their way through intricate rhythms and patterns, offering incense, fire and sweat to the gods in exchange for good fishing fortune. The open walled roof had been transformed into a shrine made from palm leaves and trunks, braided, woven, stuck together to form a sacred space for the ritual to take place. It was teeming with spectators: all ages, all sexes, no tourists. But the ritual was not for them. It was for the gods. And they were witnessing it. As were we. All together.

As the evening proceeded and the dancers went through trances, acrobatics, fire-whirling, bantering, clowning, sex-changing and a whole array of different costumes and props, people watching fell asleep in the plastic chairs. First the children and the elderly, but in the course of the evening people slumped over, still impregnating the ritual with their sleeping presence. Offerings of black tea and crackers revived us momentarily. At 4:30 I had to give up and walk along the empty road towards home until I caught a ride.

At the University of Visual and Performing Arts in Colombo, making a work presentation and talk. Mainly to students from the department of dance. It made sense to show my work to them. To talk about bodies, moving bodies, other-than-human bodies and how we can dance and choreograph spanning species and modes of existence. Talking to the professor, Udagedara Priyantha, about paradise – the historical, the mythical, the lost. Made me think of paradise re-created. What would that be? What would it take?

I will go to the woods near Sigueriya with him and the painting students for 3 days to work in the forest. In paradise….

My nights by the ocean are dark and sweaty. The sound of the waves penetrating my dreams. Some nights I am scared. The ocean sounds too close, menacing somehow. Other nights I am falling into the constant of it. But I relish in the lush quietness by the lagoon. Here my thoughts come together, I find space to breathe, explore, sense. Unfold. Like all the plants.

I realize that it is as much my own reservation as the expectations of others, that separate me from people here. I find it hard to accept my privilege, what it makes of me here. I am almost ashamed of it. No feeling of entitlement, on the the contrary. Wanting to hide, blend in, disappear in the masses.

I am trying to slide into my encounters, trusting that the people I meet are exactly right. Without knowing yet, what meaning we will create together. Like Sunil and his wife, who want to teach me to cook coconut sambal.

Each person, each encounter represents a road I can travel down. I have to be the one daring to do so. Curiously. Politely. Honestly.

All these threads, thoughts and words.

Skin tone, camouflage, dance, material explorations, exchanges, encounters, fear, curiosity.

I will try to make the words come together.

Gahata poththa wagei (ගහට පොත්ත වගෙයි ) As close to each other as the bark is to the tree trunk. Describes really close friends/people.

11th November 2019

Visiting is not an easy practice; it demands the ability to find others actively interesting, even or especially others most people already claim to know all too completely, to ask questions that one’s interlocutors truly find interesting, to cultivate the wild virtue of curiosity, to retune one’s ability to sense and respond – and to do all this politely! […] Curiosity always leads its practitioners af bit too far off the path, and that way lie stories.

[…this] sort of politeness does the energetic work of holding open the possibility that surprise are in store, that something interesting is about to happen, but only if one cultivates the virtue of letting those one visits intra-actively shape what occurs. They are not who/what we expected to visit, and we are not who/what were anticipated either. Visiting is a subject- and object-making dance, and the choreographer is a trickster. Asking questions comes to mean both asking what another finds intriguing and also how learning to engage that changes everybody in unforeseeable ways.”

(Donna Haraway: ‘Staying With the Trouble – Making Kin in the Chthulucene’)

I’ve been here 4 days now.

Landed in the humid night for a drive through the darkness from Colombo to Dodandura. Dogs sleeping like little hairy mounds by and on the road. People getting up before the break of dawn to get ready for a new day’s work.

Arriving to the villa by the lagoon, going to sleep in my mosquito tent.

The next few days exploring: the banks of the lagoon, the fishermen’s harbor and its rocks with crabs, sea urchins and jumping fish. A fishing boat with a swedish prayer for good luck as a name. Local fishermen having a party, drumming, singing and drinking arrack. Wanting to invite me for dinner, for sailing, for walking.

Walking along the coast and home along the train tracks. Everything so lush. So green. So rich. Local women picking jasmine flowers for Buddha, drying their washing on the rocks by the tracks. Dogs, children…

Hello madam, how are you?

How am I?

Everything is foreign, I even become foreign to myself. My skin color sets me apart. Makes me into something other. I struggle with that. Wanting to blend in, to become invisible and quietly make my way around to explore, see, meet, and exchange. Beyond skin color. And money. Trying to find a meaningful point to work from. Maybe it starts with accepting the foreignness, around me and within me.

I found treasures by the lagoon. Seeds, nuts, flowers, shells. I begin by encountering them, body to body, flesh to flesh – spanning species. Making this an entry point. First contact.

My initial idea for the project here is to learn to sing the sound of the water in 3 different locations and then sing the sound of one place to another – ideally together with 3 or 4 others. There are intellectual thoughts and theories behind my project. Eco- and hydrofeminist approaches to species and connectedness. But as I am the only resident here at this time, I have to find ways of involving locals in the project. I’m not sure it will make sense to them. And then what’s the point…?

I want what I do here, to be of value to others.

What can I do? What can I create, which has value to the people here? How can I ask meaningful questions that makes new sense to both me and the people, I encounter?

All these questions. No answers today.

Hopefully the next weeks will bring me closer – to people and answers.

Selfie with leaves Footleaf