The Fearless Collective: memory of an artist in Sri Lanka in the midst of an economic crisis

A few years ago I was on the phone looking for art residencies where I could learn how to paint large scale murals. It was a dream of mine to create them one day, as I myself was a budding self-taught artist with a penchant for street art. And maybe one day find Dhaka enhanced by art, color and voice amid the chaos.

I believe in the healing power of beauty and art. I discovered how making art a new hobby has helped my personal growth and I have witnessed examples throughout history and the modern era of how art can enhance the community life.

Ever since I got into painting, I had a passion for wall art and street art as a form of public art installation. I have seen all over the world and read a lot in different economic contexts how the presence of street art has a positive impact on the well-being and productivity of a community. For example, Medellin in Colombia, a city torn apart by the legacy of drug lord Pablo Escobar, has been decorated with public art to improve community reintegration, morale, and attract tourists and businesses, and it has worked with success among many other examples around the world. .

My research led me to the incredible work of The Fearless Collective, a participatory storytelling movement involving large, beautiful community murals. The murals were created in collaboration with the marginalized communities the murals represent, in strong and empowering narratives. Led by artist Shilo Shiv Suleman, Fearless had a vision to extend its methodology to South Asia. An art residency was to be conducted, and I immediately applied. With my passion and passion for murals to represent vulnerable communities, and my general interest in street art, I immediately aligned with the Collective.

However, the COVID-19 outbreak began soon after, and despite several bonding moments during Zoom calls, the residency was postponed indefinitely. Two years later, we finally got a call asking who was still interested, and I found my way from Sri Lanka to join a magical cohort of other strong, pioneering female artists from India, Pakistan and the Sri Lanka, with me representing Bangladesh.

Even though I’ve never been to another art residency, I immediately felt, along with the other artists, that it was going to be 10 extraordinary days. Over the next few days, we began to unpack each other, and the stories we were incarnating separately. For the first three days, the nine female artists from across South Asia shared our personal and political stories, where we come from and the movements we find ourselves in. We talked about fears and resistance movements in our countries.

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