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9 artists respond to 3 alphabets to create the A-Z of Conflict, a tri-lingual artists book project
129 backers pledged $33,014 to help bring this project to life.
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$33,014

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About this project

What image comes to mind when you think of the first letter of the English alphabet? Is it an Apple or an image of an Airaid ? What about the second and third letters? Is it B for Ball and C for Cat or B for Boundary and C for Customer? What kind of words and images would appear in an alphabet about conflict? This is the question behind the A-Z of Conflict, a specially commissioned artist’s book project involving 9 contemporary Sri Lankan artists.

A (Tamil) Airaid, Anushiya Sundaralingam, monotype, 2015
A (Tamil) Airaid, Anushiya Sundaralingam, monotype, 2015
B (English) for Boundary, Nina Mangalanayagam, b&w fibre-based Lambda print , 2015
B (English) for Boundary, Nina Mangalanayagam, b&w fibre-based Lambda print , 2015
C (English) Customer, Arjuna Gunarathne, watercolour on wasli, 2015
C (English) Customer, Arjuna Gunarathne, watercolour on wasli, 2015

The A-Z of Conflict takes its cue from commonplace children's alphabet books. Only in the case of this project the content has been changed to reflect on the relationship between language and conflict. To this end the project examines the wide-ranging subject of conflict with reference to the three major languages spoken in Sri Lanka—Sinhala, English and Tamil—a country divided by decades of civil conflict. Retaining the format of an alphabet book, it will feature each letter from each of the three alphabets accompanied by a word and a specially created artwork. Covering the upper and lower case English alphabet (52 letters), Sinhala alphabet (264 letters) and Tamil alphabet (247 letters), the A-Z of Conflict will contain 563 words in total. 

In itself this list of words will embody an unprecedented body of research for being the largest trilingual collection of words related to conflict. Given the number of specially commissioned artworks, it will also present one of the largest artworks on a subject that inherently seems to defy explanation yet continues to preoccupy the attention of contemporary artists not only in Sri Lanka but internationally.

Pa (Sinhala) Panara (donation) box, Anomaa Rajakaruna, b&w photograph, 2015
Pa (Sinhala) Panara (donation) box, Anomaa Rajakaruna, b&w photograph, 2015

Raking Leaves is a non-profit organisation registered in Sri Lanka where no government or public funding for contemporary art organisations exists. Unlike other Raking Leaves' book projects the A-Z of Conflict is unique for being the largest single project undertaken by the organisation.  It relies on the participation of 9 artists, the inclusion of 3 languages and the corresponding reproduction of 563 new works for each letter represented by English, Sinhala and Tamil. The enormity of publishing such a large artists' book consequently requires a higher level of funding compared to earlier titles. Part of the funding for the project has already been confirmed by Stichting Doen and the Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development in the Netherlands. 

F (English) Fable, Nina Mangalanayagam, C-type lambda print, 2015
F (English) Fable, Nina Mangalanayagam, C-type lambda print, 2015
S (Tamil) Security Zone, T. Shanaathanan, dry pastel on paper, 2015
S (Tamil) Security Zone, T. Shanaathanan, dry pastel on paper, 2015

Why Conflict? Why Sri Lanka?

This project surfaces at a critical point of reflection in Sri Lanka’s history: 6 years after the end of its civil war in 2009. Within the context of Sri Lankan politics and culture, language has been a driving force behind the intercultural conflicts that embroiled the country in war. 

In 1956, the government of Sri Lanka (then known as Ceylon) passed a bill that made Sinhala (replacing English) the official language of the country. Riots ensued and led to increased tensions between the Sinhala-speaking majority and Tamil-speaking minority. 

During the riots of 1983, pages from the English language phone directory, where names are listed alphabetically, were used to help Sinhalese mobs track down Tamil families living in Colombo. An estimated three thousand Tamils were killed and tens of thousands of houses destroyed during what is now remembered as Black July. 

More recently in June 2014, under the pretence of peace in the country, an outbreak of communal violence erupted in the coastal town of Aluthgama where more than 80 Muslim homes were destroyed, Qurans were burned, and people were killed. Such incidents owe much to the presence of the countries three dominant language groups each vying with the other to compete, communicate and coexist in harmony and with respect as part of an island of 20 million inhabitants. 

S (Tamil) Seaside, Nilanthan, collage, 2015
S (Tamil) Seaside, Nilanthan, collage, 2015
R (Tamil) Reading Room, Anomaa Rajakaruna, b&w digital print, 2015
R (Tamil) Reading Room, Anomaa Rajakaruna, b&w digital print, 2015
B (Sinhala) Barbed Wire, Chandraguptha Thenuwara, ink on paper, 2015
B (Sinhala) Barbed Wire, Chandraguptha Thenuwara, ink on paper, 2015

Who are the participating artists?

A unique aspect of the A-Z of Conflict is the opportunity it presents to bring together the work of 9 contemporary Sri Lankan artists who reside in 5 cities - Belfast, Batticaloa, Colombo, Jaffna and London. 

Muhanned Cader b.1966, Colombo, Sri Lanka. Lives and works in Sri Lanka and UK

Arjuna Gunarathne b.1976, Matale, Sri Lanka. Lives and work in UK

Nilanthan, b.1965 Jaffna, Sri Lanka. Lives and works in Jaffna, Sri Lanka

Nina Mangalanayagam, b.1980, Sweden. Lives and works in UK

Anomaa Rajakaruna b.1965, Nugegoda, Sri Lanka. Lives and works in Colombo

Thamotharampillai Shanaathanan b.1969, Jaffna. Lives and work in Jaffna, Sri Lanka

Anushiya Sundaralingam b.1967, Jaffna Sri Lanka. Lives and works in Belfast, Northern Ireland

Chandraguptha Thenuwara, b.1960, Galle, Sri Lanka. Lives and works in Colombo

Kamala Vasuki b.1965, Jaffna, Sri Lanka. Lives and works in Batticoloa, Sri Lanka

W (Tamil) War, T. Shanaathanan, dry pastel on paper, 2015
W (Tamil) War, T. Shanaathanan, dry pastel on paper, 2015

For some, conflict has led them to leave the country of their birth while for others the experience of conflict has meant they could not leave or have chosen not to leave. Beyond the war in Sri Lanka, the A-Z of Conflict explores the idea of conflict in the workplace, the family and in society at large. Together the 9 artists represent a grouping of styles, training and backgrounds, along with language skills, that both bind and set them a part from one other. Such a combination lends itself to an idiosyncratic collection of words and images that will intentionally challenge perceived expectations of what an A-Z of Conflict might represent. 

P (English) Pliers, Muhanned Cader, collage, 2015
P (English) Pliers, Muhanned Cader, collage, 2015

To create the project, each artist selected letters from the English, Sinhala and Tamil alphabets. Using their letters to identify words connected to conflict, they have each produced works in mediums such as dry pastel, pen and ink, documentary and conceptual photography, miniature painting, the graphic novel and collage. The resulting book project will bring together 18 months of work and will include 566 letters, words and newly commissioned artworks in a single specially designed book of 1,200 pages. Measuring 195 x 245 mm the A-Z of Conflict will be printed in an edition of 2,000 copies and launched in April 2016. The book project will be internationally distributed and sold for $75 in participating book stores.

C (Tamil) Camp, Anushiya Sundaralingam, monoprint, 2015
C (Tamil) Camp, Anushiya Sundaralingam, monoprint, 2015
R (Sinhala) Ruins, Chandraguptha Thenuwara, pen on paper, 2015
R (Sinhala) Ruins, Chandraguptha Thenuwara, pen on paper, 2015

How will the A-Z of Conflict be distributed?

The A to Z of Conflict will be distributed by three notable international book distributors, Idea Books in the Netherlands, RAM Publications in the USA and Art Data in the UK. All three distributors specialise in distributing art books around the world, to book sellers, museum shops like MoMA, the Stedelijk Museum and Tate, as well as to public and university libraries, in addition to audiences via their respective websites. Raking Leaves has worked with all three distributors for the last 7 years and has an established professional relationship with each of them. 

International distribution will also occur through educational events featuring panel discussions and talks with the 9 artists in cities such as London, Belfast, Colombo, Jaffna, Batticaloa, Madrid and New York. The A-Z of Conflict anticipates attracting attention from audiences beyond the cultural sector, in the fields of policy studies, journalism, conflict resolution and legal theory.

C (Tamil) Comfort, Vasuki Jeyasankar, ink on paper, 2015
C (Tamil) Comfort, Vasuki Jeyasankar, ink on paper, 2015
R (English) Relocate, Muhanned Cader, collage, 2015
R (English) Relocate, Muhanned Cader, collage, 2015

How can I be part of the A to Z of Conflict?

We've put together a unique collection of rewards for anyone that wants to help create Raking Leaves' largest and most ambitious book project. If you donate in US$ you will also be able to receive tax relief on your donation through Raking Leaves' partnership with international non-profit Give2Asia. Give2Asia serves as a catalyst for philanthropic investment in Asia and makes international philanthropy safe, effective and impactful for corporations, foundations and individual donors. 

Pledge $25 or more - Receive a specially designed tote bag and acknowledgement on the website.

Pledge $50 or more - You will have the first chance to buy a copy of the A-Z of Conflict at a reduced price before it goes on sale for $75. Includes tote bag and acknowledgement on Raking Leaves website.

Pledge $75 or more - Receive 1 SIGNED copy the A-Z of Conflict by each of the 9 artists. Includes Tote bag and acknowledgement on Raking Leaves website.

Pledge $90 or more - Receive 2 copies of the A-Z of Conflict. Includes Tote bag and acknowledgement on Raking Leaves website.

Pledge $140 or more - Receive 2 SIGNED copies of The A to Z of Conflict. Includes Tote bag and acknowledgement on Raking Leaves website.

Pledge $200 or more - Receive 1 copy of the A-Z of Conflict with the full archive of Raking Leaves published book projects: The One Year Drawing Project by Muhanned Cader et al, Pearls by Simyrn Gill, Side by Side by Imran Qureshi, Name Class Subject by Aisha Khalid, The Speech Writer by Bani Abidi and The Incomplete Thombu by T. Shanaathanan. The full package includes 8 book projects in total. Also includes tote bag and acknowledgement on Raking Leaves website.

Pledge $300 or more - Receive 2 SIGNED copies of the A-Z of Conflict with the full archive of Raking Leaves published book projects: The One Year Drawing Project by Muhanned Cader et al, Pearls by Simyrn Gill, Side by Side by Imran Qureshi, Name Class Subject by Aisha Khalid, The Speech Writer by Bani Abidi and The Incomplete Thombu by T. Shanaathanan. The full packages includes 8 book projects in total. Includes Tote bag and acknowledgement on Raking Leaves website.

Pledge $750 or more - Receive and own part of the process involved in commissioning an artist's book project with this rare chance to receive unpublished materials from the project. Receive 1 preliminary drawing, painting or photograph from one of the 9 artists involved and enjoy owning a part of the process of the project. Works will be posted up on each new day of the campaign. Includes a full set of Raking Leaves book projects, tote bag and acknowledgement on Raking Leaves website.

Pledge $1,500 or more - Receive a full credit (in your name) in the book on the colophon page, along with an exclusive unpublished work, a full set of Raking Leaves' books and 1 SIGNED copy of the A- Z of Conflict. Includes tote bag and acknowledgement on Raking Leaves website.

Pledge $3,000 or more - Receive 1 of 18 numbered special editions of the A to Z of Conflict which includes an original artwork, signed and dated by one of the 9 participating artists, presented in a specially designed boxed set. Also includes a full set of Raking Leaves' books, 2 SIGNED copies of the A-Z of Conflict and a tote bag and acknowledgement on Raking Leaves website.

Pledge $25 - Receive specially designed tote bag (design TBD)
Pledge $25 - Receive specially designed tote bag (design TBD)
Pledge $50 - Receive a copy of the A to Z of Conflict (design TBD)
Pledge $50 - Receive a copy of the A to Z of Conflict (design TBD)
Pledge $200 - Receive a full set of Raking Leaves' artists' book projects. Include 8 books in total including a copy of the A-Z of Conflict
Pledge $200 - Receive a full set of Raking Leaves' artists' book projects. Include 8 books in total including a copy of the A-Z of Conflict
Pledge $750 - Receive one preliminary drawing, painting or photograph from 1of the 9 artists. New works will be posted up throughout the campaign
Pledge $750 - Receive one preliminary drawing, painting or photograph from 1of the 9 artists. New works will be posted up throughout the campaign

Details of work: Nina Mangalanayagam, Untitled I (study for A-Z of Conflict), b&w fibre-based Lambda print, 15 x 18.5cm, 2015, unique work, signed and dated on reverse

Pledge $3,000 - Receive 1 of 18 numbered special editions of the A to Z of Conflict which includes an original artwork, signed and dated by one of the 9 participating artists, presented in a specially designed boxed set (design TBD)
Pledge $3,000 - Receive 1 of 18 numbered special editions of the A to Z of Conflict which includes an original artwork, signed and dated by one of the 9 participating artists, presented in a specially designed boxed set (design TBD)

Risks and challenges

The main challenge will be printing such a large book where the quality of production is not compromised when selecting a printer and securing affordable printing quotes. Raking Leaves has an 8 year track record of printing high quality artist's books and has the experience and knowledge to ensure that the print production will be of the highest standard.

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    You will have the first chance to buy a copy of the A-Z of Conflict at a reduced price before it goes on sale for $75. Includes tote bag and acknowledgement on Raking Leaves website.

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    Receive 1 copy of the A-Z of Conflict. This book project will retail at $75 when it is published in April 2016. Includes tote bag and acknowledgement on Raking Leaves website. This reward has been added to make it clear what you get for $50.

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    Receive 1 SIGNED copy the A-Z of Conflict by each of the 9 artists. Includes Tote bag and acknowledgement on Raking Leaves website.

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    Pledge US$ 200 or more About US$ 200

    Receive 1 copy of the A-Z of Conflict with the full archive of Raking Leaves published book projects: The One Year Drawing Project by Muhanned Cader et al, Pearls by Simyrn Gill, Side by Side by Imran Qureshi, Name Class Subject by Aisha Khalid, The Speech Writer by Bani Abidi and The Incomplete Thombu by T. Shanaathanan. The full package includes 8 book projects in total. Also includes tote bag and acknowledgement on Raking Leaves website.

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    Pledge US$ 250 or more About US$ 250

    In response to all of you who have been asking if the A-Z of Conflict will be ready by Xmas we have decided to offer a new reward. The reward includes a complete set of Raking Leaves books - that's 6 books in total - in a specially designed gift-wrapped paper and delivered to any location in the world in time for Xmas with free shipping. When the A-Z of Conflict is published in April 2016 it will be gift-wrapped and sent to the same person. Who said Xmas only comes once a year?

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  9. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 300 or more About US$ 300

    Receive 2 SIGNED copies of the A-Z of Conflict with the full archive of Raking Leaves published book projects: The One Year Drawing Project by Muhanned Cader et al, Pearls by Simyrn Gill, Side by Side by Imran Qureshi, Name Class Subject by Aisha Khalid, The Speech Writer by Bani Abidi and The Incomplete Thombu by T. Shanaathanan. The full packages includes 8 book projects in total. Includes Tote bag and acknowledgement on Raking Leaves website

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  10. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 750 or more About US$ 750

    Own part of the process involved in commissioning an artist's book project with this rare chance to receive unpublished materials from the project. Receive 1 preliminary drawing, painting or photograph from one of the 9 artists involved and enjoy owning a part of the process of the project. New works will be posted up throughout the campaign. Includes a full set of Raking Leaves book projects, tote bag and acknowledgement on Raking Leaves website.

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  11. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 1,500 or more About US$ 1,500

    Receive a full credit (in your name) in the book on the colophon page, along with an exclusive unpublished work, a full set of Raking Leaves' books and 1 SIGNED copy of the A- Z of Conflict. Includes tote bag and acknowledgement on Raking Leaves website.

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  12. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 3,000 or more About US$ 3,000

    Receive 1 of 18 numbered special editions of the A to Z of Conflict which includes an original artwork, signed and dated by one of the 9 participating artists, presented in a specially designed boxed set. Also includes a full set of Raking Leaves' books, 2 SIGNED copies of the A-Z of Conflict and a tote bag and acknowledgement on Raking Leaves website.

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Funding period

- (30 days)