CARRYING THE TORCH FOR SRI LANKA'S MARTIAL ART
Reza Akram’s passion for iconic photography recently culminated into a collection that we believe has opened up conversation & pride around Sri Lanka’s ancient living history this year. Angampora is a traditional martial art that was suppressed during the colonial period, yet survived in secrecy, recently emerging as a vibrant part of the island’s ancestral inheritance as a result of Reza’s commitment and persistent efforts during the last couple of years to capture the essense of Angampora in its authenticity. Reza, who has a scholarship degree in photography from the Academy of Design, Colombo, in addition to being a qualified film colourist immerses himself into some of the deepest aspects of Sri Lankan culture through his stylistic photography which was published in the form of a coffee table book in October this year.
Re-discovering Sri Lanka’s Heritage
Prior to pursuing full time photography, Reza worked in different agencies and industries ranging from advertising firms to film, animation and lighting design. While spending time assisting professional photographers and designers, Reza continued to nurture his soft spot for people and their cultures. Understanding that Sri Lanka didn’t have the market for the documentary format at the time, which would have been an ideal way to express and speak about cultural heritage, the photographer decided to pursue commercial work. Unfortunately, after a series of work placements, the supposed career path ended in a final disagreement with an employer at an adventure travel company, prompting Reza to take leave and pursue his interests independently.
A chance meeting at a friend’s residence of an Angampora fighter piqued an interest that has occupied Reza since, providing him with a calling to find his voice as a photographer. It happened so that a fellow worker was practicing the martial art, and it took eight months of inquiry to finally be able to meet the Angampora master, Deshamanya Ajantha Mahanthaarachchi. Upon discovering the potential of this discipline, the photographer believed that people needed to hear much more about yet another ancient chapter in Sri Lanka’s struggle to maintain, understand and respect its complex sense of identity.
Tapping into a national pulse with the Angampora project has garnered admiration from many different types of supporters, ranging from the fascinated individual to the invested company. Reza’s crowdfunded project has acquired the partnerships of 150 benefactors across the world, ranging from corporate entities including Mercedes-Benz - Dimo Lanka, Brandix, Holcim, Sampath Bank and the Ministry of Defence to name a few. The publication ‘Angampora: Nation’s Legacy in Pictures’ has been written by Deshamanya Ajantha Mahanthaarachchi, documented by Reza, published by Oceans and Continents, with the launch taking place at the DIMO Showroom in Colombo 14. The project is a prime example of how Reza’s photography matured alongside the martial art into the spectrum of community that lay beyond the traditional
realms of art and design.
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