‘Learning By (Doing ) It’ is an anonymous, open-ended space that gives room for humane stories, diverse experiences and honest voices on the topic of sex.

In this space, sex is ()


Mayomi on the complexities of being a citizen of everywhere and nowhere

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Mayomi Basnayaka
'Air Out The Dirty Laundry', Personal work, ©Mayomi Basnayaka
'Air Out The Dirty Laundry', Personal work, ©Mayomi Basnayaka

MKCan you tell me a bit about what you’ve worked on recently and how you’re enjoying the currently running projects?

MBI’ve recently been working on embodied experiences in migration processes. Currently, I have a more of a focus on bureaucratic spaces and platforms of migration such as Embassies, Passports, and Visas. In finding how to share these experiences through an embodied method, I have been working with performance and interactivity. I find it to be a great way to retell stories of migration.

MKDo you work with certain specific topics in your work and if so, what would those topics be? Were you interested in these topics before you started your practice or have they been naturally shaped through client / personal requests over time?

MBMy work has a lot to do with being a citizen of everywhere and nowhere, aiming to reflect the complexities around multiculturalism. I have always gravitated to subjects around marginalized narratives and how best to tell them, as I found the underrepresentation to be harmful. My practice is not only fuelled by my own experiences but by working with other people who push me deeper into the subject - knowing that, though underrepresented, these narratives are found globally. This brings me to another important theme: embodied knowledge. In especially academia, embodied knowledge isn’t so accepted. Always requiring proof, or evidence, it seems that academia has a hard time believing the knowledge that is felt in the body. Hence the lack of acceptance of this method especially in the western world has pushed me to further work with it.

'I've Been On A Visa Since Birth', Personal work, ©Mayomi Basnayaka

MK(If you are still illustrating) Has your illustration style evolved since your earlier work? If so, how? (you can also talk about the style of your designs or other work if you are no longer illustrating).

MBI found that when I began my practice I was more comfortable sharing narratives from myself. As I wondered about consensual boundaries when telling the stories of others - I felt I didn’t have a right to share other people’s stories. From valuable experiences I have grown to understand that it is important to constantly check in with people and that if they feel uncomfortable it’s important to address it immediately. That if anything it can sometimes be more important to help voice the stories of others - especially when they can’t themselves.

MKAs an illustrator/designer, are there any causes or values that you are passionate about and aim to express through your work or the way you work?

MBFor me, representation is something I am always aware of. From the people that I work with to the production of the work, it is important to me to include diversity. I like to think about the different skin colors I am representing, the hair types, the different body types, etc.  I’m especially passionate about working with people with marginalized cultural backgrounds. I enjoy working with these subjects and values as it is what I look for in works that inspire me.

Mayomi "I would like to see a sexual education system that explores the multifaceted nature of sex. Generally more explorative and empowering rather than an outdated sexual health VCR!"

MKHow did you like the structure of the brief of Learning By Doing It — having to listen to an anonymous recording that was intimate in its topic and medium?

MBI really enjoyed the spontaneous feeling of the 'Learning By Doing It' brief. It felt like a very intuitive way to illustrate. It was crucial to have the voice recording and to be able to play it over and over again when I was stuck with the design. The intimacy of the process made me design with softness and care, but also excitement to share a narrative that I never heard during my sexual education. Knowing that I was sharing a real person's story made it much more compelling for me to work with this brief.

'Observations and Alterations', Personal work, ©Mayomi Basnayaka

MKWhat was your sexual education like and if there’s anything you would like to change about our current system of sexual education, what would it be?

MBI grew up in a catholic school where I was told: that “the safest sex is no sex”. Though I received an understanding of the biological portion of sex, the rest of it was never discussed. The emotions, intimacy, playfulness, queerness, etc. were things we had to figure out through sharing experiences amongst friend circles. I would like to see a sexual education system that explores the multifaceted nature of sex. Generally more explorative and empowering rather than an outdated sexual health VCR!

MKAt your current stage in life, what would you like to learn on the topic of sex and relationships?

MBAt this stage in life, I would like to learn more about cohabitation in long-term relationships, and how to work with personal cycles, emotions, sex, and daily routine. How can you intertwine without losing yourself? Once the more cute-getting-to-know-you phase has passed, what does it mean to co-exist?

MKIf you had to teach your younger self one valuable lesson on the topic of sex, what would it be?

MBI would teach myself that it’s alright if what works for other people doesn’t work for you. All bodies are different, and it takes time to figure out your own. Bodies go through so many cycles and changes, that it only makes sense that sex isn’t bound.

written: Feb 13 2023

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