First ever Akurucon pushes boundaries in Lankan typographic thinking

A progressive discussion on local typographic culture, its evolution and impressions on Sri Lankan society held in Colombo: Focus on the significance of the Dutch era press for Sinhala and Tamil letterform evolution: Conceptualised by Akuru Collective and Mooniak and supported by Netherlands’ Embassy and AOD Colombo

Contributing a thought-provoking discussion on typography and its social influence in Sri Lanka, the first ever Akurucon was organised by the Akuru collective of typographic practitioners and enthusiasts. The conference is part of a larger project being conducted in collaboration with AOD and the Netherlands’ embassy, parallel to the 280th anniversary of the Dutch press printing in Ceylon. Akurucon included a conference, open talk forums and a series of workshops during August 29th and September 1st. The events were held at various locations around Colombo linked to Sri Lanka’s language and culture, and contributed a fresh conversation on what it means to revive the island’s printed letter heritage. It aimed to study and discuss the influence of the Dutch press on the evolution of Sri Lankan typography and communication, at a time when letterforms were being revolutionised due to dawn of movable type. Further, Akurucon led its discussions towards defining new typographic innovations to revive this evolution to meet the needs of today’s world where digital and physical worlds continue to transcend. Akurucon was participated by professionals linked to typography, printing, media, design, calligraphy, language and academia, plus students and general enthusiasts. Among the speakers and knowledge-contributors to the event, there was the Dutch typographic expert Martin Majoor, the Sri Lankan letterform researcher and design academic Dr. Sumantrhi Samarawikrama, astronomer and numismatist Dr. Kavan Ratnatunga, and the typographic designers Pathum Egodawatta, Kosala Senevirathne and Tharique Azeez.

One of the major highlights of the event was the release of an alpha (work in progress version) of the Galle font, which is the revival letterform set resulting from the research and study of the Dutch press in Ceylon. Akuru collective in collaboration with Mooniak, Leafycode and HostGrid has presented the Galle font with an app that will help the users of this alpha stay connected to its course of evolution. This means that the app will keep track of new versions of the font as and when the type designers and font developers release updated versions, and automatically download them for the users, allowing them to follow the evolution of the Galle font.

Beyond the Akurucon, its organisers of Akuru Collective will continue to focus their efforts 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 overall project aims to change that thorough research leading to an academic publication, an exhibition, several talks by international typographic experts, workshops and a book publication. It will also highlight the historical Dutch-Sri Lanka bond and build new links, conversations, and possibly even collaborations, between the two nations’ typographic communities.

For more information on future events, discussions and collaborations, reach Akuru collective on hello@typography.lk or meet us on every first Sunday of the month at the Royal Asiatic Society.

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