Pippa Taylor & Jony Easterby Blog

Plants plants plants

Monday, March 11, 2019

The work has begun!
Arriving at Sura Medura and Sunbeach has been a wonderful experience.
We are now in residence with a fabulous group of fellow artists and our wonderful hosts with a wonderful group of locals supporting us, great cooks, gardeners and tuk tuk drivers abound.

It appears we are importing our habits and lives from back home.
A passion for music is now followed closely with investigations of the world of growing in Sri Lanka.

You are struck by the fresh produce all around you – fruits, vegetables and plants of unknown name and origin.
An urge to plant seeds on our arrival is perhaps reminiscent of the spirit of settler mentality, of wanting to see what will grow alongside the need to mirror the landscape of home, put down roots and create a secure space.
In Colombo we sought out seeds to plant from a local seed shop, some familiar names and some not so.
The first day of work also involved an exploration to a seed and plant centre some 20km from Hikkudawa, We discovered a garden centre and an agri supply shop where we could get an overview of plants and propagation kit. We loaded up with seeds, trays and potting compost for our experiments in growing.

The results are spectacular for our usual UK standards with germination happening virtually over night and growth rates beyond expectation.

The journey back from the garden centre was punctuated by visits to cinnamon plantations and an oil processing plant, lotus ponds and quite excitingly –  a mangrove forest.

The mangroves are an incredible and valuable ecological zone, an ecological edge between the sea and the land that have suffered from degradation (shrimp farming and development) and now full protection in Sri Lanka. 

The effects of the Tsunami along the coast was undoubtably affected by their removal as they form a natural  and soft edged protective zone. We decided to collect some seeds  and seedlings to see if we could create a nursery to help the regeneration around the edge of Sura Medura.

In the meantime we are exploring images  drawing symbols and ways of promoting Mangrove love.

We also decided that we might try to establish a Mangrove nursery in order to plant more trees around Sura Medura. In part to help with erosion, but also to help establish more habitat. Seeds were collected along with some young seedlings.
Sadly our attempts have failed due to some fundamental horticultural fuck up. The seedlings disapproved of being transplanted and have now all died.
The seeds are perhaps growing, but the sand and mud in the estuary my not be suitable. There must be a reason why not many are establishing around Sura Medura.

Mangrove ‘snorkels’ used for breathing by sub aqua magrove roots
Pippas drawing of Mangrove seeds and seedlings
Mangrove seeds and pods
Mangrove planting experiment. Sadly doomed to failure because of unsuitable soil

Beginnings in Colombo and beyond

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Colombo a city of endless tuktuks, roasting tarmac, honking buses and the occasional oasis of calm.
We decided to spend a few days getting to know the city and being inspired by its urban charm.
On the first day whilst looking for a ride we come across this bizarre site.

A tuk tuk seat cover with the bilingual NRW logo is parked on the side of the road with a smiling driver. This is a sign from the gods that we must use this tuk tuk for all our journeys! Vikramnathan the driver turns out also to be the sweetest and most generous of souls and speaks a fair smattering of English. He is now our guide in Colombo.

We explore the markets and cafes with him and also track down a music shop.We have proposed a two prong approach to the development of our work whilst we are here. The exploration of music and botany/ecology.
Before leaving the UK we started to research violin music in Sri Lanka and came across an ancient musical instrument, the fabled Ravanhatha purportedly the first bowed instrument in history.It is named after Ravana  (meaning roaring in Sinhalese) a devout follower of Shiva who plays the Vena (another Indian instrument) and has ten heads.


We looked to see if we could find a Ravan hattha in but could not find one, so we bought one from India and bought it here with us. The instrument turned out to be pretty hard work as it was so badly set up, but after a lot of faffing around with bits of bone, horse hair and strings its finally starting to sound oaky and pretty playable. It has 15 sympathetic strings that resonate when you play the single  rh horse hair string with a bow.

The Ravan hattha Dinesh playing the Ravan hattha

During our explorations we also tracked down the violinist Dinesh Subasignhe who is a bit of an expert on the Ravanahatha. He invited us to an exciting tour of the Sri Lankan Broadcasting (formally the Celon Broadcasting Corp) buildings and studios where he records a TV show playing  a mix of different genres of music. He has invited us to appear on a world music special where we will improvise together with some of our tunes….we will wait and see how that turns out!
The CBC building is an amazing throwback to the days of colonial broadcasting C1920 replete with corridors full of old recording equipment, big red lights to show the studios are live and an exciting canteen.

We also visit the archive and get a listen to the first ever recording made at the CBC in 1946 – seemly played on a turntable from around the same era. They have hundreds of thousands of recordings in the archive. We may return.

 The first ever recording in Sri Lanka

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