Bathed in Blood: Ritual Performance as Political Critique
In May 2009, when the war between the government of Sri Lanka and Tamil insurgents came to an end, Sri Lanka’s citizens were hopeful that the country had entered a new era of peace. Instead, along with the ongoing neglect and marginalization of the island’s ethnic and religious minorities, there has been a dramatic increase in violence against Muslims and Christians, much of it led by ultra-nationalist Sinhala Buddhist monks. In response to this violence, Venuri Perera, a well-known dancer, choreographer, and performance artist, created a ritual performance titled Kesel Maduwa. In this article, I examine Kesel Maduwa as a model for utilizing dance and traditional ritual to contribute to processes of conflict transformation, ethnic reconciliation, and women’s empowerment. I situate the performance in relation to Sri Lanka’s history of dance and, through thick description and interpretation, demonstrate the power of the creative reshaping of ritual to address contemporary political and social issues. I also analyze the radical gender politics embodied in Kesel Maduwa as a contribution to women’s political activism and a challenge to stereotypic views of Sinhala Buddhist womanhood.
Women's & Gender Studies
Link to OA full text
Reed, Susan. "Bathed in Blood: Ritual Performance as Political Critique." (2021) : 165-198.