The first project of its kind to get support from the Netherlands’ Embassy inColombo, it is conceptualized by Akuru Collective and Mooniak founded by AOD Alumni Pathum Egodawatta and connects Sinhala and Tamil typographic evolution to the Dutch Press
AOD and the Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands have announced its support to a groundbreaking project that strengthens Netherlands-Sri Lanka historical relations by using design as a medium.The project is the first typographic design centred initiative between the Netherlands and Sri Lanka with a deep significance to cultural diplomacy between the two nations. It aims to map out the influence of the Dutch press on Sinhala and Tamil letterforms plus, the evolution of the two languages in Sri Lanka overall. This project has been funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Sri Lanka in Colombo, and is led by a progressive group of typographic enthusiasts—the Akuru Collective— and Mooniak co-founded by AOD alumnus Pathum Egodawatta. Mooniak is a type design and typographic design studio in Sri Lanka producing high quality tri-lingual fonts for Sri Lanka. It is the only studio in Sri Lanka with expertise in font-making and multilingual design. Mooniak provided custom type design services and consultancy for International clients like Google and Oxford University Press, MiCT International. AOD was instrumental in connecting the talent at the Akuru Collective to the embassy, and facilitating the main partnership between the two. Further, AOD will be extending its strategic and networking support to the project and taking it to the relevant circles in local and international business and global design academia during the final stages of project realisation.
AOD Alumni Pathum Egodawatta
Speaking about the significance of this project and why AOD chose to support it by linking in the patronage from the Netherlands’ Embassy in Colombo, AOD Managing Director Lin Gong-Deutschmann stated the following; “This project really fell in line with what AOD believes the potential of design to be. It celebrates the role of design in culture and history. It also clearly demonstrates that design and creativity can influence the dynamics of matters as significant as international relations between countries. We were thrilled to facilitate the partnership between the embassy and the Akuru Collective for another big reason—this is that Akuru Collective currently includes membership from the AOD faculty and includes several AOD graduates’, including some of the best typographic design talent that we have produced over the years.”
The project will see the Akuru Collective and Mooniak, focusing on preservation, documentation and building discourse around the Dutch Government Press in Ceylon, which was the first to print Sinhala and Tamil languages. The Dutch press in Ceylon is recorded as one of the most prominent printing presses in the region at the time and had the ability to print Dutch, Sinhala,Tamil and Burmese, playing a regional role in progressing local typographic forms to graduate to press-friendly formats. This regional leadership went on to influence the history of typography and printing in Sri Lanka, and played a major role in shaping the country’s linguistic history and heritage. However, it is often underrated and even completely disregarded during the discussions of cultural and economic inheritance from the Dutch-Sri Lanka relationship. This project aims to change that by presenting a series of outcomes that have been discussed and finalised between the embassy and the Akuru Collective. The project outcomes include a thorough research leading to an academic publication, an exhibition, several talks by international typographic experts and workshops.
‘AkuruCON’ to be held on the 1st of September is an annual typography conference in Colombo and in alignment with this project, the inaugural conference will celebrate the shared typographic heritage between Sri Lanka and Netherlands. More information on the event can be found on www.akurucon.com
The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Sri Lanka was particularly pleased to be able to support this knowledge exchange project on shared cultural heritage with specific relevance to typography and stated that “It is indeed a fascinating experience to dig into historical typography, printing and graphic design. The embassy wishes to commend Mooniak for highlighting the Sinhala language work by the Dutch press while pursuing research on Tamil language work. The project aims to recall that introduction of printing in local languages was one of the most influential aspects during the Dutch period in Sri Lanka - the Dutch Government Press of Ceylon was the first enterprise to print in Sinhala.
At the macro level, this project is part of a string of international design initiatives and events that AOD will be behind during 2018. Annually AOD facilitates mega-scale events and projects linked to fashion, design and innovation, such as the Mercedes–Benz Fashion Week Sri Lanka, The South Asian Apparel Leadership Forum, Female Futures Forum and the Sri Lanka Design Festival among several more. All these events bear international relevance and are part of AOD’s greater vision for centering a new South Asian innovation hub with worldwide appeal, right here in Sri Lanka. In all these events and initiatives, AOD serves as Sri Lanka’s voice for international design, a resource for world class education and knowledge, plus an influencer with access to a massive global network of creativity and innovation.
According to the Founder of AOD—Linda Speldewinde, these kinds of collaborations and network linkages are an important focus of AOD’s work which is centred upon driving impact through design led innovation. Over the past decade or so, AOD has been highlighted from the South Asian region as a leading voice for design led innovation, that bears great international relevance along with a uniquely Sri Lankan identity: “At the heart of AOD’s work is what we do to mobilise groups and people in design communities and use their ability to think innovatively for a greater purpose, that draws in greater impact. Our work in facilitating the necessary partnerships, strategic consultation and networking for the Dutch-Sri Lanka typography project comes from this thinking. It is something that uses design in a very futuristic way to uncover and share new knowledge on our history and culture. The outcomes and the resulting energy of this project feeds into a greater design and innovation based ecosystem of creative communities that AOD has been fostering for the last fifteen years,” said Speldewinde.
The Dutch-Sri Lanka typography project will be a newer, much deeper collaboration with the embassy and the Akuru collective facilitated by AOD. This project is an opportunity to research and share knowledge on an important dynamic of our historical relationship with the Dutch and will continue to strengthen the relationships between academia, diplomatic missions and the design community.