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Annoushka Hempel, Founder & Director, Colombo Art Biennale

Annoushka was born in London where she attended the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London where she studied History of Art and Social Anthropology and achieved her BA Honours. She continued her love of the arts working with contemporary artists in London whilst researching for a book on African Art. Her work experience, then, led her to public relations and event management. Annoushka moved to Sri Lanka with her family nearly ten years ago when she set up and managed the first Art Gallery in Galle showcasing contemporary Sri Lankan artists. Subsequently, she founded the Colombo Art Biennale with Jagath Weerasinghe and directed the very first South Asian Art Biennale ‘Imagining Peace’ in 2009, collaborating with leading local curators, artists and art historians. ‘Imagining Peace’ successfully showcased the works of both established and emerging Sri Lankan artists alongside international artists, provoking the notion of artists as catalysts of change.

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Jagath WeerasingheCo-Founder, Colombo Art Biennale

Jagath is a Lecturer at the Art and Archeology University in Sri Lanka and is also a Founding Member & Chairman of Theertha International Artist Collective. His received his education in visual arts at the Institute of Aesthetic Studies, University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka and the American University, Washington D.C. USA. He has been the main proponent in the idealogical shift in the approach to arts in the 1990s – now popularly referred to as the ’90s Art Trend’. He has shown his works extensively in Sri Lanka and internationally. Weerasinghe’s diverse interests allowed him to drift his attention to other related fields of art such as conservation of mural paintings. Presently a Professor of Archeology, his interventions in heritage management has been widely recognized. He lives and works in Sri Lanka.

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Neil Butler – Director (International), Colombo Art Biennale

An artist, cultural strategist and creator of festivals and events, Neil divides his time between Sri Lanka and Europe and has been visiting Sri Lanka since 1991 creating art, education and community projects. He works alongside the Colombo Art Biennale’s founder, Annoushka Hempel in giving artistic direction and guidance to the festival. In 2005, he developed the first ‘Hikkaduwa Beach Carnival’ with MTV and in 2006 the broadcast TV event ‘Sing for Peace’. He has established the Sura Medura Art Centre which runs workshops in theatre, music and dance in Hikkaduwa. The Centre regularly invites international artists to work in residence. In 2010 the Centre worked with the Dutch Director Dries Verhoeven and Dialog to create an innovative theatre show that appeared in the Netherlands Germany and the UK. He is the founder of UZ Events in the UK and became a specialist in closing down cities to create venues.

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GIHAN KARUNARATNE : Director of architecture for CAB 2016

Gihan Karunaratne is a graduate of Bartlett School of Architecture and Royal College of Art in London. He has lectured in many countries and is a recipient of the Bovis and Architectural Journal Award for Architecture. Karunaratne is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts for Architecture, Design and Education and writes and researches extensively on art and architecture.Karunaratne’s philosophy and interest lies in urban conditions within cities which are undergoing constant physical, economic and social changes in patterns of urban living. In many of his projects he hasresearched and explored the underbelly of the city in great detail, specifically the peripheries and incidences where people hide from social normality.Gihan has recently started a detailed urban/architectural study into the slum housing communities of Sri Lanka, specifically in parts of Colombo. This study also involves research into low cost housing architecture and design. Due to the results of displaced communities following civil wars and tsunami, his research also focuses on the social impact of architecture and how it can unify broken, fractured families and communities through design.Gihan’s art work is a combination of observation, investigation and high-tech data analysis. His maps identify movement, socio-economic patterns, and current local and global political conditions. By exposing these alternative realities, the maps lay them open to interrogation and investigate alternative ways of understanding current local and global issues. For the past three years he has also collaborated with local Sri Lankan wood carvers and furniture makers to design an art work called ‘pirith’ inspired by historic colonial patterns, which celebrates this disappearing  craftsmanship of Sri Lanka.

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Director of symposium for CAB 2016

Tessa Jackson is an independent curator, writer and cultural advisor and runs her own company, International Cultural Development.  Until recently she was Director of Iniva (Institute of International Visual Arts), London (2009 – 2015), an organisation that explores the politics of race and global identities through the visual arts.

Tessa has over 25 years’ experience working in Britain and internationally, as a curator, gallery director and cultural policy advisor.  She was Founding Artistic Director and CEO of Artes Mundi, Wales’ International Visual Art Prize (2002 – 2010), establishing a new initiative that provided a ladder of opportunity for artists working in Wales and brought international artists and curators to the country including Xu Bing, Okwui Enwezor, Eija Liisa Ahtila, Fumio Nanjo, Kara Walker, N S Harsha, Ivo Mesquita and Chen Chieh-jen.

Previously she was Director of the Scottish Arts Council (1999 – 2001) where she led on its first national and international cultural strategies. Before this she was Director of Arnolfini, Bristol (1991 – 1999), one of Britain’s most significant spaces for international contemporary art, leading on its artistic programme and curating a range of significant exhibitions with artists such as Patron Heron, Mona Hatoum and Annette Messager. Concurrently she raised significant capital funds (£5.5 million) for the organisation so that it could buy its building and undertake expansion and refurbishment. Before this Tessa was based in Glasgow as Head of Visual Arts for Glasgow 1990, European City of Culture (1988 – 1991).

In 2011 Tessa was awarded an OBE by Her Majesty the Queen for services to Art.