Deneth Piumakshi Veda Arachchige
Deneth Piumakshi Veda Arachchige lives in the French Alps and works in Paris, FR, and Basel, CH
The multidisciplinary approach of Deneth Piumakshi Veda Arachchige is situated between art and activism. Included in the 12th Berlin Biennale are several works that evolve from the theme of the restitution and reparation of the artist’s ancestral memories and remains. With photography, video, sculpture, and installation, the artist narrates the story of her ancestors, the Indigenous Adivasi (formerly known as Vedda) people of Sri Lanka. Through the project Voices from an Archived Silence, Piumakshi Veda Arachchige began researching on Paul and Fritz Sarasin’s 1883–1907 scientific expeditions to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) in 2019 to study their collection of skeletal remains of the island’s Indigenous groups. The Swiss naturalists returned to Europe with a large collection of crania, which are still held in the archives of several European museums.
Using her own body as the basis for the sculpture Self-Portrait as Restitution – from a Feminist Point of View (2020), Piumakshi Veda Arachchige holds a replica of the skull of an Adivasi man that was unscrupulously removed by the Sarasins. She desires to pay respect to all her uprooted ancestors and to their disparaged way of life. Piumakshi Veda Arachchige finds a way of finally allowing these bodies and souls to rest in peace in their homeland, instead of imprisoning them in plastic boxes and locked cabinets. The product of three years of investigation, these works represent the suppressed voices and questions raised by the Adivasi. As viewers, we are asked to consider the question: to whom do these ancestral remains belong?
Deneth Piumakshi Veda Arachchige’s work was created for the exhibition Voices from an Archived Silence. Inspired by the study Tropebliebe by Bernhard Schär, in 2018 the artist and curator duo Vera Ryser and Sally Schonfeldt initiated the project and invited artists from Sri Lanka and Indonesia to artistically respond to the legacy of the scientific expedition of Paul and Fritz Sarasin and thus activate those voices that had so far remained unheard. Piumakshi Veda Arachchige focused on investigating the Sarasins’ research and collection of human remains of Wanniyala-Aettos in Basel and continued her research in other archives in Europe and in Sri Lanka.
Mother Earth Calling, 2021, Atelier Mondial, Basel (CH)
Underneath my second skin, 2020, Gandy Gallery, Bratislava (SK) (solo)
Broderie: point de départ, 2020, La Manufacture – Musée de la mémoire et de la création textile, Roubaix (FR)
Thirst for Knowledge Meets Collecting Mania, 2019/20, Museum der Kulturen Basel, Basel (CH)
Sandwich, 2017, Les Complices*, Zurich (CH) (solo)