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Interdisciplinary arts festival - Colombo, Sri Lanka

Focusing on the theme : “Sea change”

Curated by Natasha Ginwala

Fabienne Francotte explores the shifting borderlines between land and sea in relation to urbanity.  As Colombo defines its future through the lens of development and prosperity through its interventions at the seashore, Francotte’s work exposes its underbelly.


The artist observes the creation of technological hubs, luxury real estate and urban beautification and the ways in which these efforts eliminate the ocean from communities that have been historically and intrinsically linked to it.  


Francotte creates portraits of those erased from the areas of Pettah and Slave Island. She considers what the forced exodus of this community far from the coast, means for the ways in which we approach regional collectivity in its links to the future of the subcontinent.


Her portraits unapologetically locate suffering on the faces of her subjects, by way of tracking violence exercised through infrastructure.

When Francotte moved to Sri Lanka in 2016, she found elaborately decorated plastic tablecloths for sale on the streets of Pettah. Intrigued by them, these plastic tablecloths became the canvases for her works exhibited at Colomboscope.


While plastic is a significant threat to marine ecology and the planetary system at large, Francote asks us to consider the politics of class and privilege often embedded in our environmental advocacy. She notes that polythene tableware, while harmful to the environment, is still often used within lower-income communities for its durability, inexpensiveness, and striking appeal.


By locating these portraits on a visual plane that some may consider kitschy, the artist reflects on how contemporary aesthetics are often class biased constructions, and how histories of colonization and Western aspiration can create structural hierarchies of taste in various strata of native communities.


Sandev Handy


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