#BHXResidentNotes: Colombo Design Market at The BeachHouse Shillong
From Humble beginnings to creating and running Srilanka’s first design market that now attracts 2,000+ people, Alifiya Mutaher, our resident from the BeachHouse Shillong answers a few question about her journey with Colombo Design Market at The Beachhouse Project and how she manages to keep the creativity flowing.
What’s fundamental (value) to you in life at work?
The work I do and the way I work should always be in line with my values in life. I try to keep the work I do as an extension of myself as much as possible.
At its core, what I work towards is creating work that helps us live in harmony with each other and our natural environment. Creating space that allows us to be more conscious of who we are and in turn being more conscious of our role in the world we live in. This can materialize in different ways and I'm still exploring the ones that resonate most with me. People are inevitably at the center and heart of this.
What influenced you to create CDM?
A sense of belonging is a very basic human need and one that connects with me strongly. In Colombo, there's plenty of great talent and vibrant energy but few things really bring them all together. There tends to be this attitude of 'there's nothing cool happening in Colombo', which I think is untrue and a perception we need to change. Taking a step in this direction, I created Colombo Design Market (CDM) as a space for emerging creatives, artists and designers to connect with like-minded people and collectively showcase what they do to the community, allowing us to explore a contemporary Sri Lankan identity through art, design and other creative forms of expression. I wanted my friends and me to be proud of what's being created locally and make them feel like they are able to identify with and represent it!
What keeps you going?
We play only one part of the much larger ecosystem. Seeing the creative scene growing really quickly and being able to contribute to it is a constant motivation for us to keep pushing it to reach further. Being able to see the direct impact of CDM, the collaborations it has brought about and the business trajectory it has given - we still have a long way to go but we have won a lot of our battles in the process!
And when your work involves seeking out the coolest things happening in your city and meeting some great people, it doesn't take too much effort to keep going.
How do you build a culture of creativity?
Diversity and collaboration. Bringing together different ideas, experiences and perspectives are always a good fuel for creativity. When it comes to instilling this culture into work and systems, we recognize the challenge since you have to question how things have been done and how can you do it differently each time, going forward.
Why do you think residences like BHX, are important for creative entrepreneurs?
It's this amazing combination of being on holiday with seriously talented people you wouldn't otherwise ever meet. It’s a place where you get to think about the work you love doing, the whole time! It's a fresh environment to think in. People come with the intent of being open and willing to learn and share with each other. There is time and space to let conversations go deep, with few distractions over the whole week - except that time (that) Ankit brings up the distant story of a one armed man dangling in a pit. Each individual has something you can learn from that applies to your life or work, and it's highly likely that you're going to want to collaborate with or stay friends for a long time to come. I think of residencies like BHX, as these super compressed little pockets of inspiration that give me direction and fuel me throughout the year.
Would you like to share a life lesson you have learnt over these years?
It's your perspective that you look at the world with, that the world reflects back at you. So keep reminding yourself to feed your perspective with good things, and you'll find your world shaping up with the good things too.
Alifiya Mutaher (26yrs) founded the Colombo Design Market, a community for emerging creatives, exploring a contemporary identity for Sri Lankan art and design. A mechanical engineering graduate from Monash University, with experience in human-centered product design and product development, Alifia is now bridging the gap by bringing art and design to public spaces. She also manages the festival setup and production for Colomboscope, Sri Lanka’s biggest multidisciplinary arts festival.