One of my most enduring memories is from pre-school, of three children relentlessly bullying me.
I remember scrubbing my skin in the shower to wash my brown skin whiter, even though I knew already that cleanliness had nothing to do with colour. I thought I’d done something terribly wrong to be so friendless, and was convinced that it would always be this way. I let my anger seethe for many years before I was able to look back on my early life in Sydney and see how my three tormentors were the result of an environment that feared outliers and oddities, singling them out to tear them down.
The average school relies on guided rote learning and letter grades to prepare students for ‘success’. Can students creatively respond to complex social problems, if the questions they see come with an answer key? Will they critically separate factual evidence from rabble-rousing propaganda, when they are taught to imbibe their text-books unquestioningly? Will they be generous and collaborative with others, when a single mark on an exam constitutes success or failure?
What does this narrow approach to education mean for people like me?
My foray into the arts catalysed my healing and growth, teaching me the skills that so many lack: to make myself vulnerable through honest self-reflection, thereby accepting myself and showing empathy towards those around me; to be collaborative, which produces abundantly more magic than a single diva can; to identify and critically deconstruct the competing narratives underlying an event; to be resilient and good-humoured in difficult situations; and to always keep an eye open for the singular, the surprising, and the whiff of a good story.
Today, I engage as an arts educator, sharing my skills and experience. This website is a portfolio of my work.
In 2012 I founded Building Bridges, an arts-based social enterprise that builds the communicative and collaborative skills of ethnically diverse students in my native Sri Lanka. I’ve worked on theatre, creative writing, and visual arts projects that constantly interrogate the politics of belonging. My research as a doctoral student in architecture at MIT digs deep into the design of spaces that critically shape our own sense of self. In all my ventures, I’m committed to fostering creative, critical-thinking, collaborative and compassionate communities.