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Winning praise for her “intimate storytelling” in re-imagining a 2,000-year-old Tamil classic, Bulli-based filmmaker Zanny Begg has won a prestigious artist residency at the 66th Blake Prize this year.
Her video artwork Stories of Kannagi reimagines the story of Kannagi, a young woman who is forced into exile by the misdeeds of her husband; yet defends him against injustice in their new homeland.
As winner of the Blake Established Artist Residency, Begg was awarded a one-month residency and solo exhibition at Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre (CPAC).
According to the three-person judging panel of Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran, Maud Page and Kumi Taguchi, Stories of Kannagi won for its powerful portrayal of the impact of civil war and displacement on Tamil communities living outside of Sri Lanka.
“Begg has created a poignant portrait through the minds and words of three intergenerational women from a relatively unknown minority group. Issues around belief systems, bravery and cultural transpositions are interwoven with dramatized oral histories and vibrant, compelling bursts of speech by the three women,” read the judges’ comments.
Stories of Kannagi, an adaptation of classic tale Silappathikaram taught in local language schools in Australia, came together in collaboration with Jiva Parthipan and members of the Tamil community in Western Sydney. It also features three Australia-based Tamil writers: Niromi de Soyza, Srisha Sritharan, and Shankari Chandran.
When asked about her inspiration behind the project, Zanny highlighted the ancient tale’s relevance even in contemporary times.
“Hers is an ancient story which resonates with life today, particularly in the Australian context, where we have total injustice towards refugees and migrants,” Zanny had told Indian Link. “So, having this powerful figure who basically tells the ruler of the land that he doesn’t deserve to rule anymore because he hasn’t been a just ruler, resonated with me. I felt a powerful attraction to the story.”
You can catch Stories of Kannagi at the Blake Prize Exhibition at Sydney’s Casula Powerhouse Art Centre, 13 Feb – 11 April 2021.
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