Artist Chamindika Wanduragala takes on motherhood and race through puppets

I. Rebirth

When Sri Lankan artist Chamindika Wanduragala returned to the Twin Cities arts scene after almost a decade away, it was a much needed rebirth. A visual artist by training (having earned a bachelor’s in studio art from the University of Minnesota) and a DJ by night, Wanduragala had taken time off from her practice to raise her two children. Now that they were both in preschool she was eager to start creating again. A lover of music, she picked up her turntables last year, playing events for local art organizations such as Pillsbury House Theatre’s recent Late Night Series.

“I just want to share amazing music with people and spread the word about artists that I think deserve to be heard and have their music supported,” she said.

And Wanduragala is doing just that. Take for instance her August gig held in South Minneapolis’ Reverie Cafe + Bar where she invited local musicians to perform live vocals over dub instrumentals.

“I did this DJ night called Crucial Excursions to spread the word about contemporary roots reggae artists because they don’t get played here. I was playing that and in between I had dub instrumentals with Queen Drea, Ritika [Ganguly] who is Bengali and Aida [Shahghasemi], an Iranian American musician who sings in a classical Persian style to contemporary music. Each of them were given three instrumental tracks that they did vocals on top of and performed live,” she said.

Aside from playing music, Wanduragala also returned to drawing. In July she was invited by fellow artist, Pramila Vasudevan to take part in Soap Factory’s 3 x 5 ARTIST Residency Program. The exhibit featured her visual artwork which she describes as, “what writer and activist Audre Lorde referred to as biomythography: the intertwining of experience and history with personal mythology,” she said. But there was still something lacking despite the vibrancy of her work.

“I always wanted to bring my drawings to life,” Wanduragala says, “but didn’t have the time to make that happen. Now that I have time because my youngest [child] is in preschool, I’m bringing my characters to life,” she said.

How does Wanduragala bring her “characters to life?” Through puppetry.

Read the full story at Twin Cities Daily Planet!

Above: DJ, painter, puppeteer and mother Chamindika Wanduragala builds a puppet for an upcoming show in her home. Photo by Annabelle Marcovici.