In conversation with Ameena Hussein

Irrefutably, the cultural sectors and creative industries have been a large component of economic growth and increasingly contribute to nations and their identities monumentally. Cultural Times assesses that the contribution of cultural and creative industries is estimated to have been generating up to $250 billion in revenue a year, and thus creating 29.5 million jobs worldwide. In ARTRA’s journey and purpose to steer Corporate Cultural Responsibility, our service for The Club, HNB as Art Advisory Partner has set forth and continues to present a series of conversations and instalments that promote cultural awareness in the corporate industry in steering Sri Lanka’s cultural economy. On the 20th of August 2021, ARTRA provided The Club, HNB and its valued customers the opportunity to learn and explore the multiplicity of Sri Lanka from a cultural standpoint, together with Ameena Hussein, esteemed author and publisher through the exploration of her latest novel, ‘Ibn Battuta in Sri Lanka’.

The third instalment of this series explored the multiplicity of the nation and its inherent significance in creating the identity of Sri Lanka, and thereby the vitality of raising awareness of this multiplicity. ‘Ibn Battuta in Sri Lanka’ unveils the stories that created the nation of now; seeped into the soil of this country is its multicultural identity, from influences of the Dutch, Portuguese and British, from Kings of long past, those who have landed on Taprobane soil and have instilled rich diverse mediums of living. Our conversation with the author revealed these intrinsic nuances. Ameena’s pursuit of Ibn Battuta’s trail is rich in presenting the diversity and identity of the nation. We find in the remnants of cultural architecture and documented literature what becomes of those colonial influences and find them woven into the lives of society, politics and ethics in today’s context still, yet observed through a society that has adopted those as their own. Her narration of the novel reveals the significance in highlighting the rich tapestry of ethnics we are embedded in, and in our conversation, comprehended the urgent need of the creative industry to impart these narratives.

Between readings and imparting stories and legacies that contributed to the creation of her novel, Ameena discussed detailed nuances of the cultural significance that contributed to elevating the vitality of hearing Ibn Battuta’s journey. She explains, “I was lucky enough to be one of the last generations to grow up in a very openly multicultural atmosphere. Because of my experiences, I took this multiculturalism utterly for granted. But as you grow older, you are prone to see the polarization that is sometimes nurtured and fed politically.” ARTRA, in steering Sri Lanka’s cultural economy through Corporate Cultural Responsibility, spoke to Ameena on her attempt to raise this cultural awareness through her literature. Her retracing of Ibn Battuta’s trail led her to a myriad of ethnic and ethnic revelations – from the inspired architecture to rediscovery passages of pilgrimages, each component presenting the diversities of Sri Lanka’s cultural landscape. Thus, ARTRA’s aim to promote such awareness in corporate industries is fructuous and through our conversation with Ameena presents these nuances of cultural multiplicities.

“The book was a labour of love,” Ameena began, “because it took me many years to complete the journey, to have researched Ibn Battuta's journey extensively. I found, also, in my interview for ARTRA Magazine E59, the photographs of my journey that were featured reminded me that not only was I documenting the historical journey but I was also documenting the present cultural context of Sri Lanka. So, the images featured in the magazine reflected those,” she said. ARTRA Magazine ‘Designing Alternative Realities’ E59 explored the course of Ameena’s trajectory in retracing the steps of the famous traveller and in conversation with the esteemed author, she re-examines the cultural influences that have seeped in today’s context thereby re-experiencing a familiar space with a new perception. In doing so, ARTRA Magazine Apr/May E59 featured a curated collection of selected four unpublished photographs of Ameena’s journey encapsulating her interpretation of the renowned traveller’s journey across Sri Lanka of profound symbolism to culture, space and sanctuaries, reflective of her own musings. The virtual art talk that took place on the 20th of August, 2021, exclusively for The Club, HNB was a conversation that followed Ameena’s making of the book – in sporadic discussion, through readings and reminiscing, the author revealed insights into the spaces of culture she ventured and unveiling forgotten stories.

The co-founder and creative force behind Sri Lanka’s leading English Publishing House, Perera-Hussein, an establishment founded in 2003 to enable and encourage Sri Lankan writers, Ameena Hussein has unfalteringly worked towards promoting local authors. Through a steady, albeit difficult upward trek of representing Sri Lankan writers locally and internationally, acclaimed author herself, Ameena has unsurprisingly surpassed ordinary standards in carving a platform for local novelists to explore their narrative with local and international audiences. As a publisher, she has been successful in critiquing the economic issues of privilege, deconstructing and dissecting them into elements of expectation and persistence through the relentless social obstacle courses. Ameena was celebrated as one of ARTRA’s Iconic Women in 2017 for her consistent efforts as a publisher of Perera-Hussein Publishing House in representing creative narratives characterizing the divergent personalities of Sri Lanka to the local and global readership.  

In creating an art advisory space for their exclusive clients, ARTRA’s partnership with HNB facilitates the strengthening the industrial infrastructure to promote local art & culture. Azara Jaleel, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of ARTRA, led the talk as she introduced Ameena, “It’s been a series of very riveting conversations and with understanding the portfolio of visual art and the growth of Modern and Contemporary Art. Previously, in December, we had a conversation with Dr. Sumudi Suraweera in performance art and this time we’re very excited to have Ameena Hussein who is a trailblazer in the English publishing scene in Sri Lanka, not just as an author alone but also Publisher and Co-Founder of Perera-Hussein Publishing which has published works of both esteemed emerging and established writers from the region. Ameena herself has published a novel, ‘Moon in the Water’ and two collections of short stories. She’s won the state literary prize and nominated for the Gratiaen Prize and more than anything, we find Ameena very riveting because she has a tapestry of works and a perspective that reflects our present response to cultural diversity while highlighting Sri Lanka’s unique cultural embodiments as a result of its historical ties and trade relationships from bygone eras.”

Why are art and cultural initiatives critical to the growth of a nation and establishing its identity? The sectors of art and culture have been studied to contribute to a larger understanding the nation’s value and the value of its people and society. From literature to the visual arts, performance and applied and culinary, each component is intrinsic to the revitalization of economy. Ameena Hussein, in her discussion, records the architecture through which a cultural space is distinguished, observing its inspirations of the colonial influence to those that are perceived now; her conversations with the people of the country and their awareness of Ibn Battuta’s journey enlightened her observation of the diverse regions of the country and presented forth the cultural gaps and intercultural bridges. She encapsulated significant spaces of film, and published her stories on ‘Ibn Battuta in Sri Lanka’. In our aim to facilitate the initiatives of Corporate Cultural Responsibilities, ARTRA’s service as Art Advisory Partner with HNB will unveil these perspectives and in its trajectory, create the space for cultural awareness and the strategic building of a cultural economy.

Are you part of an organization looking to promote cultural diversity? We will be happy show you the scope of Sri Lanka's finest Modern & Contemporary artists through our services and counsel in the form of talks a dynamic presentations and inventive engagements. For more details, call us on +94772305054 /+ 94114545355 or email us on 

22nd August, 2021 Written Art | Personalities