NAVIGATING BETWEEN PERFORMANCES
The experiences of living in different countries account for influences by cultures, environments and sensibilities. For a practising artist, this sense of spatial movement can provide the vacuum necessary for striving artistic progress and growth. Nimmi Harasgama, professional award-winning performance artist who needs no introduction was born in Sri Lanka, and extensively travels and works across Europe and Asia. Growing up from a young age in the United Kingdom and being able to travel together with many theatre groups from across the world contributed immensely to her performance praxis in becoming more determinate on the front line of cross-cultural communication.
The actress was introduced to socio-political dynamisms through her travels to Europe and South Asia. Grappling with varying political geographies while working for Young Asia Television, allowed for an expansive vision to apply in her theatre practice since her early years in the media. Nimmi had the opportunity to speak to the Swedish Parliament about television and globalization with a South Asian perspective, having first visited the country to present a documentary on young people around the world. “I was surprised. They actually allow the younger generation to influence the decision making process of the older generation”. This preceded humanitarian work during the Sri Lankan civil war. “It was a really interesting eye opener as I was asked to speak about the conflict for the organization called Idea, a youth democracy forum”. Nimmi helped conduct drama workshops up North, travelling with a Sri Lankan Tamil girl working in Jaffna during the conflict; in addition to this, she helped with similar projects in the aftermath of the tsunami in 2004.
In terms of placing oneself outside the zones of comfort, Nimmi’s discouraging fears have been dealt with accordingly in a cross-cultural mixture of local and international scales. When referring to her work-travel experiences in South Asia, her experience with Ruwanthie de Chickera’s Stages Theatre Group, one of Sri Lanka’s most critically established practices, comes to mind. “We performed in various places such as universities, schools and theatre festivals. As a performer, it’s very grounding to work within spaces of this nature as you’re given the opportunity to learn from the ropes. It was a memorable experience - we were stuck on a train for fifteen hours because bandits pervaded our route”. Nimmi, alongside her fellow actors and other theatre group professionals from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Pakistan, travelled across India visiting places such as Lucknow, Mysore and Benares performing socio political performances. The benefits outweigh any sense of hopelessness, as tours required a wide range of exhibitive qualities. Nimmi recollects travelling in the United Kingdom as part of a six month excursion with the Oxford Touring Company, visiting urban and rural theatre spaces. The experience of being on the road was tough. “Us four girls, had to put the set ourselves, take it down, living in digs, God knows where. Sometimes there were mice”. They were performing a new play by Rani Murti, a prolific Sri Lankan Tamil-Malaysian based in Manchester, to predominantly white audiences; this accounted for the universal experience of light-hearted cultural misconception in differentiating personality from skin colour.
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