The makers of Slave Island | 2016 Colombo Art Biennale

In line with the 2016 Colombo Art Biennale theme ‘Conceiving Space’ this photo essay maps the spaces dedicated to crafts, manufacturing and making around the small community of Slave Island. This is a lively informal neighborhood in the heart of Colombo, Sri Lanka, now locked-in between contemporary commercial development.

Focusing on the architectural manifestation of these activities in the city, this essay documents the spaces they occupy, their varying configurations and exposure to the street. Repair shops and workshops appear in narrow alleys, street corners and along main thoroughfares. Clients and merchandise often spill out onto the street, in such a way that the public space is appropriated as well as animated. More importantly, an intermediate zone is defined between indoor and outdoor, private and public, where city life thrives. This space has simultaneously a social and commercial significance.

Contemporary more formal configurations of shops and workshops exist, in the western world as well as in modern parts of Colombo, with less spatial variety. There, activities are mostly confined indoors. These examples, on the other hand, show us how we can reconsider this practice.

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