Kathy Hinde Blog


SURA MEDURA Residency, Spring 2019 – Blog post :

When I arrived in Sri Lanka, I was drawn to the colourful boats at the harbour. I met a fisherman called Pala who invited me to listen to a rock with an echo. We tapped the rock in many places, but couldn’t find the echo. The weather here is very dynamic. The sea is lively, and the harbour is often windy.

I made some instruments that make sound with the wind. A harp made from palm branches and amplified fishing line. Stretched elastic that oscillates in the wind. Bamboo poles with slots that the wind plays like gentle flutes.

When testing my instruments at the harbour, I met a family of fishermen, Lakindu, Malidu, Kalindu and Seerat. Intrigued, they and listened to the wind play the harp created from fishing line.

We went to the rock Pala showed me.  Lakindu told me that the rock used to echo, but not since the Tsunami.  It used to be hollow with an expansive echo, but the huge shifts in sand, rock and other material during the Tsunami filled it up and silenced the echo.

I returned to the silenced rock with Lakindu, Malidu, Dulaj and Tharanga to listen to the wind play the Aeolian instruments I made. Sonifying the weather at the rock that had been silenced by the weather.

We filmed what happened.

Camera by Anne Milne, 
Second camera, sound and editing by Kathy Hinde.
Thanks to Pala for inviting me to listen to the rock 
Thanks to Lakindu, Malidu, Dulaj and Tharanga for playing in the wind, and their family and friends for helping.

Below is a photo of the aeolian instruments used in the film



SURA MEDURA Residency, Spring 2019 – Blog post :

I continued to work with Mangalika, and also spent some time with her granddaughter Samadi. I had a lovely afternoon with them both creating some more nests from coconut fibre (coir).  I filmed Mangalika’s hands working with the fibre to make twine, whilst Samadi created a small ensemble from fridge magnets and flowers on the front porch. I enjoyed this quiet time crafting and making together. On leaving, I noticed Mangalika’s wood pile, which reminded me of the eagle’s nest. I pointed this out and asked if I could borrow some of the wood to create a nest for the final show at Sura Medura. Mangalika enthusiastically agreed.


For the exhibition at Sura Medura, I displayed the nest Mangalika originally wove, along with more experiments we created together from coir in a window space. Outside, I constructed a larger nest from the wood pile with a light and speaker inside along with three more speakers embedded in coir hung in surrounding coconut palms. I created a soundscape of occasional snippets from the tunes that tuk tuks play when they are selling goods such as fruit, bread, ice-cream. When we first arrived, for a moment, we actually thought the fruit selling tuk tuk tune was a bird… so it seemed quite fitting to make ‘tuk tuk’ bird chirps in the woven nests. Mangalika’s son-in-law is a tuk tuk driver, so this seemed to weave together Mangalika’s whole family.

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I’d originally intended to have a video of Manglaika’s hands weaving coir showing inside the larger nest, but due to heavy rain storms happening a few times a day, and the timing of the show at dusk, I decided construct this into a short film this instead.


SURA MEDURA Residency, Spring 2019 – Blog post :

A day out with Alice, another artist in residence at Sura Medura. We planned a trip following the south coast from Hikkaduwa to Weligama with some specific aims for the day. Alice had located a cotton weaving mill and a tea plantation, whereas I was on a mission to find stilt fishermen. We also had some items to source in Galle for our projects, so we decided the best way to go about all our travels was by tuk tuk, with driver ‘Uncle’ * .

After an unsuccessful search for ‘white mosquito nets’ with ’round hooped tops’ in Galle (for Alice’s project) we headed off to ‘Sooriya Weaving Mill‘ just outside Galle. After a slightly confusing scenario trying to find the place, we pulled up at what seemed to be a private house. Which it was. However, thankfully, the man living there kindly led us through his house and back garden to a pathway through a paddy field, (where we saw a huge snake) and we caught a glimpse of beautiful green swathes of cotton hanging out to dry. From there, we found our way to the mill.

We were warmly invited in by a group of women, all working on the many procedures taking place at the mill. The cotton is imported from India, but the rest of the process all takes place at Sooriya Weaving Mill. The cotton is washed, dyed, spun, threaded onto looms and then woven into fabric which, in turn, is then made into garments such as sarongs and bed linen. It was really inspiring to observe a complete production process from raw cotton, to garment. We met the owner, Chandana, who was extremely welcoming, and gave us a complete guided tour, even inviting Alice to try her hand at the weaving loom.

I was fascinated and captivated by the rhythmic sounds and vibrant colours. Interlacing percussive rhythms of the looms and spinning wheels generated a phasing composition that constantly shifted in dynamics with overlapping paces, all resulting from the process of creating beautiful interwoven fabrics. I was impressed by the regular rhythms of the weavers; their looms demanding physical and energetic handling. I couldn’t help but assimilate the looms to musical instruments. As I explored more, I discovered many ingenious and fascinating mechanisms. Most were operated by hand; the human and machine working together in a way that felt symbiotic, neither one in charge, each giving and attending to the other. I noticed the machines had a certain amount of tolerance,  and ‘looseness’. They are as accurate as they need to be yet with a necessary flexibility in how they function. Nothing is hard edged and over-fixed, meaning they can work well when operated by hand, yet are able to adjust and not break when performing in slightly different scenarios. Later in the residency I returned to Sooriya Weaving Mill to record close up films and sounds using a variety of different microphones – (see later blog post to follow). Below are a few images from this first visit.


*  After referring to our lovely tuk tuk driver as ‘Uncle’ all day, it transpired that his name is actually Newton, his ‘nickname’ is Jonny and there is another tuk tuk driver usually called Uncle. Not sure how this happened, but Newton/Jonny was happy to be called Uncle throughout the day… so he will always be ‘Uncle’ to Alice and I despite the ongoing confusion this inevitably caused during the rest of the residency, (until being resolved on the last day).


SURA MEDURA Residency, Spring 2019 – Blog post :

Four of us on the residency went away for a 2 day trip in search of a wilder side of Sri Lanka. To the rainforest…

Sinhiraja rain forest is the last area of primary rainforest in Sri lanka and a biodiversity hotspot with many endemic and rare species. Following much deforestation across Sri Lanka, this area is protected and was declared a World Biosphere Reserve in 1978 and a World Heritage Site in 1988.

It was transformative to enter into such a rich and biodiverse environment. I could sense the vibrancy of life there, it was palpable. We learnt about some extraordinary and unique species, and gained some insight into the incredible complexity of how this ecosystem inter-relates, every species large and small playing a crucial part of this web of life. We even saw a plant that has ants living inside its stems; both plant and insects benefiting from a unique, symbiotic relationship.

I was staggered at just how many different species we saw on our half day. I can’t remember everything… so here is an incomplete list, just a fraction of what coexists there … green pit vipers, scorpions, eagles, tree crabs, monkeys, giant wood spiders, enormous millipedes, green garden lizards, fish owls, leaches (too many!), tree frogs, …  and so many different kinds of trees, vegetation and fungi, complex mosaic’s of root systems intertwined, with enormous twisting vines engulfing trees to create new beautiful structures and forms.

And then there is the sound of Sinhiraja. Symphonies of cicadas who’s almost choral intensity rises and falls in waves accompanied by a sporadic ensemble of frog croaks, intermittent calls from monkeys and a myriad of birdcalls. To be suddenly drenched to the skin by heavy rain made for a full sensory experience – enveloped in the mysterious wonders of the rain forest.

Some photos from Sinhiraja (which translates to Lion Kingdom).

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We also planned an afternoon trip to Udawalawe National Park, which is a large area of mostly grassland with a large reservoir. It’s an important reserve for the protection of elephants and there are also many bird species, along with water buffalo, monkeys, land monitors, mongoose. It is only possible to enter by open-top jeep… some photos…



SURA MEDURA Residency, Spring 2019 – Blog post :

During our first week we were invited to meet Mangalika, who lives close by and is a long term friend of Neil (who runs the Sura Medura Residency). Mangalika was very welcoming and showed us how she weaves hats out of dried grasses dyed in different colours. It was wonderful to watch her work, she has such a natural and skillful technique. Always a pleasure to watch someone at one with their craft, which I often assimilate with playing a musical instrument. We looked round her place and garden, and it was wonderful to see and hear many birds and insects in the wetlands behind her house. I noticed she had collected 2 weaver bird nests that had fallen from the palm tree at the back of her house. I looked into the palm and there were 4 or 5 more weaver bird nests there. I was touched that Mangalika spent her days weaving hats amongst birds that weave nests.

I returned to visit Mangalika this week, because I wanted to speak to her more about the weaving, and about the birds in her garden. We went for a walk in the marshy land behind her house and saw many birds together. I tried to learn the Sinhala names for them… Myna is Myna and crow is Kaka, nice easy ones to start with. As we returned, I proposed an idea to Mangalika. I asked if she might be able to weave a nest  – like the weaver bird nests she has collected. She laughed a bit at this idea, but we chatted some more, and she agreed to give it a go, so I said I’d commission this special piece of work from her.

I was thinking about Mangalika’s skills, and also observed how her daughter, son-in-law and grand-daughter live all together in a small, improvised, self-build place behind Mangalika’s house, with the repaired chair (from my last post). I thought about the resilient way her daughter and family are making things work, clearly without much money by improvising, repairing and adapting to create what they need. I hope to spend some more time here and get to know Mangalika and her family more.

Interestingly the weaver bird is also quite resilient, inventive and skilled. “This clever little bird knows 14 to 18 different types of knots,” says [Siddhesh] Surve, [project assistant at BNHS and organiser of the pan-India survey]. “He uses them to hold his nest together so that it can resist monsoon storms and hold the weight of his mate and their eggs.” The bird also makes small mud pellets to weigh the nest down.



SURA MEDURA Residency, Spring 2019 – Blog post :

Innovating, adapting, evolving, responding, repairing, creating, improvising, imagineering, … This is what I have been noticing in Sri Lanka.

I have seen many incredibly innovative solutions that deal with the need to adapt to situations, often difficult situations that someone’s livelihood depends on. For example, a solution to not having a fishing boat is to plant and secure a huge stick into the ocean bed and fish from that – amazingly innovative. The fishermen’s boats at the harbour have many improvised additions and personalised adaptations. I loved seeing this chair when visiting Mangalika, a local lady who weaves hats, bags and purses. Lovingly repaired many times, out of necessity; the result being very beautiful, in a humble way.


SURA MEDURA Residency, Spring 2019 – Blog post :

I was inspired by my visited to the harbour in Dodanduwa – and remembered seeing images of fishermen fishing on ‘stilts’ in Sri Lanka.  More info about the stilt fishermen here


(photo – internet scavenged)

This developed as a fishing technique around the 1940’s following a shortage of fishing equipment after WWII. A ‘stilt’ would be anchored into the sea bed and a fisherman then sits on a crossbar to fish. They need to remain as still and silent as possible, by being high up above the surface of the water, they don’t make a shadow, so the fish don’t sense their presence. An anchored stilt would be passed down from father to son. In the Tsunami, many fishermen’s stilts were destroyed, and not many have been re-instated, so it is now not so common to see. I will try and find some stilt fishermen on the south coast.

Following my ‘rock listening’ excursion at the windy harbour, I decided to build an ‘aeolian’ harp in the style of a fisherman’s stilt by stretching fishing line between 2 hooks in the triangular gap, amplified by a piezo pick-up.  I tried it out at the edge of the lagoon, and to my surprise, it work pretty well!… The wind causes the taut fishing to start oscillating and sounding, just like a guitar or violin string does when plucked or bowed.

More experiments sonifying the wind using elastic and recording the percussive clattering of the palms, also using piezo contact mics.


SURA MEDURA Residency, Spring 2019 – Blog post :

After more conversations at the fishing harbour, I was greeting by chatty fisherman Pala, who told me it was too rough to go out that afternoon, as a storm was approaching (although it seemed like the majority of boats were still leaving the harbour). He had been in the army, survived the Tsunami, but lost his house and all his belongings. He has been rehoused by the government 3km inland and has survived a lot of hardship. He told me many fishermen have died at sea, but less so nowadays due to better weather warning systems. I found this article online about a storm in 2017 with tragic consequences for some fishermen Dodanduwa, and it seems like it is still a high risk job.

Pala invited me to come to listen to a special rock that had an unusual sound. I wasn’t sure what this would entail, so I followed inquisitively. We walked to the next peninsula and tapped the large rock in many places, but were not able to hear the hollow echo. Apparently it was too windy.  I enjoyed the fact that a fisherman had invited me to share an unusual ‘sonic phenomena’ at the harbour, especially as that is my main area of interest!. I might return and try again. 


SURA MEDURA Residency, Spring 2019 – Blog post :

Six weeks in Sri Lanka working alongside and in collaboration with 8 other artists in residence. We are staying together at Sun Beach Hotel in Hikkaduwa, and working in a new purpose built residency space in the fishing village of Dodanduwa. 

One of our first experiences together was a visit to the Tsunami Photo Museum and hearing personal accounts from this tragic event on boxing day 2004. The images are highly disturbing, and the personal accounts are equally so. A wave travelling at 800 kmph hit the coastline without warning. Buildings were torn apart, fishing boats were destroyed, a train full of people was tossed upside-down and the tracks ripped up and mangled. In Sri Lanka, 35 thousand people died and half a million lost their homes.  It is extremely sobering to be present and hear such harrowing personal accounts from a survivor. I know there will be more stories to hear about the Tsunami during my stay.

Visiting 15 years later, the fishing village of Dodanduwa is back up and running with a harbour full of boats and a lively fish market. Neil Butler (who runs the Sura Medura residencies) played a large part in fund-raising to head up a scheme to re-build the fishermen’s boats at Dodanduwa. 

In the first few days, I spent some time visiting the fishing harbour to find out more and meet the locals. I was greeted by an attractive mosaic of boats with masts made from tree branches and distinctively colourful paint-jobs. Each boat is a long thin ‘Vallam’ (beak boat) which, on it’s own would be incredibly unstable, so they have an out-rigger for balance. The parts are lashed together with rope, giving them a slightly make-shift appearance.

I chatted to some fishermen. They go out in the afternoon , around 5pm, and fish all through the night to return at 9am with their catch; often as much as 100kg.
My first thoughts were… “ At night?”… “For that long?”… “in an ocean with waves like that?” … “in that boat?” …. seems like a tough and dangerous job.
Fishing at night means the fish can’t see the net in the darkness, and calamari are attracted to light, so can be lured over with a torch.

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