To taste a bittersweet history

As someone who grew up in Sri Lanka and lives in the Netherlands today, I am intrigued by how differently the Dutch-Sri Lankan colonial history is remembered; the history is absent from mainstream narratives on the Dutch colonial empire, while in Sri Lanka this period is associated with bittersweet nostalgia. 

The Dutch East India Company (VOC) colonised Sri Lanka between 1658 and 1796. In their efforts to secure a monopoly on the cinnamon trade they transformed the landscape and culture of Sri Lanka, leaving traces visible today. I use the historical importance of cinnamon as a point of departure, to generate a critical dialogue that unpacks some of the forgotten stories and violent histories from this period. 

‘To taste a bittersweet history’ is an ongoing project that brings together collective and personal memory to offer new ways of engaging with a complex and nuanced history and explores how visual media can be used to address colonial legacies.

The mixed-media installation uses images, video and sensorial elements of smell and taste to trigger memories and initiate a conversation. It invites audiences to sit down for tea and use the space to reflect on questions that must be addressed today to ensure that we acknowledge and confront our history in a way that our future no longer resembles our past.