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Legacy of Ceylon: Art & Photography of Sri Lanka

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Legacy of Ceylon: Art & Photography of Sri Lanka

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Thursday, May 25
1:00–3:00 p.m. PT
Speaker: Dr. Janet Baker, Curator of Asian Art, Phoenix Art Museum
Virtual Event


Discover the island nation of Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon, which lies off the southeast coat of India, placing it along strategic sea routes of trade between Asia and Europe. Explore the legacy of Ceylon based on surviving artifacts, Buddhism found a home in Sri Lanka from its place of origin in northwest India around the 5-6th century, and the faith’s oldest traditions remain intact on the island today. Over the centuries, various ruling families created a theocracy, a government of officials who ruled by divine guidance. Beginning in the late 16th century, the island entered a long period of colonial rule; first colonized by the Portuguese in 1597, followed by the Dutch in 1640 and the British in 1815. The British largely supported the Buddhist theocracy maintained under the indigenous kings of Kandy, the last monarchy to rule Ceylon from 1597 to 1815. Ceylon finally achieved independence in 1948, and a period of insurrection and civil war followed. In 1972, a constitution and a republic were established, which led to the naming of a new nation, Sri Lanka.


Legacy of Ceylon: Art & Photography of Sri Lanka presents a wide range of works that explore painting and sculpture featuring a distinctive combination of Indian and Southeast Asian artistic styles and iconography. Works from the colonial period are embellished with motifs from Portugal, Holland, and Britain. By the 18th century, the concept of divine kingship had reached its apex. Solid bronze-casting techniques were used to create large-scale works that expressed the elegance and perfection in sculpted form of the enlightened spirit of the Buddha. Many of the works discussed had never been on public view prior to the exhibition of this same title at Phoenix Art Museum in 2021-22. Legacy of Ceylon: Art and Photography of Sri Lanka also features original black-and-white photographs by Dr. Quintus Fernando (1926-2004), who explored his native home of Sri Lanka in the 1950s with a Mamiya-flex camera and black-and-white film. His keen eye captured serene and exuberant moments of the island’s people, landscapes, Buddhist ruins, and everyday life, with a particular focus on the nation’s tropical sea and fertile fields. The timeless quality of these images reflect a historic moment between the end of colonial rule and the beginning of a new nation.


Please note, this session will be conducted virtually via Zoom.

Save your spot by clicking on this link. All participants will be sent the Zoom link via confirmation email with instructions once you secure your place. Space is limited.


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Sponsored by the Asian Arts Council.


Featured at top right: Quintus Fernando, Morning Launch 2, circa 1950s. Black and white photograph. Private collection. © Fernando Family Trust.

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May 25, 2023
1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
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