‘Island Mentality’ Sri Lanka exhibition at Saskia Fernando Gallery invokes the renowned 43 Group modernists


An exhibition entitled ‘Island Mentality’ at the renowned Saskia Fernando Gallery in Colombo takes a sideways look at what the term means in Sri Lanka.

The catalogue notes that “island mentality refers to the notion of isolated communities perceiving themselves as exceptional or superior to the rest of the world”.

“This term does not directly refer to a geographically confined society, but to the cultural, moral, or ideological superiority of a community lacking social exposure.”


What? While this might—might—have been the case in British colonial days, few would suggest that it is the case today. So what is behind the hyperbole?

The gallery explains that as the island moved towards independence, “a modernist movement, also known as the 43 Group, changed the traditionally influenced Sri Lankan art scene”.

It adds: “Inevitably, the criticism and expectations that follow … begin to form stereotypes in the definitions being presented to the outside world.”


“Island Mentality seeks to change these perceptions by redefining any stereotypes and oversimplifications associated with the outsiders perspective.

“As a pun on the definition of island mentality, the five artists exhibited, Muvindu Binoy, Hashan Cooray, Pramith Geekiyanage, Firi Rahman and Kanesh Thabendran represent a diversity in visual and verbal languages whilst collectively they renounce any norms or criteria.”

However you choose to define the term, it has led these artists to create some exceptional and noteworthy works that make a the exhibition something of a ‘must see’.

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