The Order of Nature and Queer Histories

Jun 19 2024.

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The Order of Nature is an ongoing project at Lunuganga curated by Geoffrey Bawa Trust Senior Design and Communications Manager Thilini Perera. An exploration of “the other,” it examines the garden as a site of creative incubation and unconventional design choices. The curatorial project directly challenges Article 365 of the discriminatory colonial Penal Code—first enacted in 1883 and which remains an impediment to the LGBTQIA+ community in Sri Lanka—by interrogating what is considered “normal” or “natural.”

The Order of Nature ultimately purports that Lunuganga is an inherently queer space, one in which hidden histories and dialogues are to be progressively excavated. The project emphasises the importance of examining Bawa’s work through his own personal experiences, a lens that previously could not be applied on account of an outdated legal framework. Bawa purchased the abandoned rubber and cinnamon plantation that would become Lunuganga on the eve of Sri Lankan independence in 1948. The garden became Bawa’s refuge—a home away from his hectic life in the rapidly urbanising Colombo where he could uninhibitedly be himself.

To have a property like Lunuganga was a privilege, of which Bawa made extensive use over the five decades he spent working on his longest-running architectural endeavour. The garden defies traditional sensibilities that dictate landscape design, highlighting the necessity of incorporating otherness as a prerequisite of inclusivity.

With the support of the Netherlands-based Prince Claus Fund, The Order of Nature launched in December 2023 as part of the three-season programme To Lunuganga honouring the garden’s 75th anniversary. The project began with an installation predicated on a close reading by Perera of Lunuganga, the eponymous on-the-garden publication by Bawa, Christoph Bon, and Dominic Sansoni.

Perera then applied an extension of that gaze on botanical and material elements of the garden itself in addition to adding several queer publications to the programme’s Reading Room in the Lower Gallery at Lunuganga. The Order of Nature is a collaborative endeavour; artists whose work addresses similar themes periodically contribute to the project. In May, artist Shenuka Corea debuted a two-part interactive installation through a counter-mapping workshop.

Participants were encouraged to create a collective map of Lunuganga drawing from various modes of visual expression, extending the long history of artists documenting the garden. Turning Corners—a double-sided triptych painted on folding timber panels which draws inspiration from Lunuganga’s Roman Pavilion—seeks to convey the experience of unearthing new, previously hidden aspects and inhabitants of the garden as one moves through it. To accompany this piece, Corea created a zine called How do you uncover the queerness of a space? combining text that suggests links between nature and queerness with some of the garden’s most recognisable iconography.

On 14th July, artist Chathuri Nissansala will install her addition to the project in the spirit of “chosen community” that underscores The Order of Nature. Constructed from natural materials found in the garden including coconut beads and used tea bags, Saudade: Encountering the Haunting Presence of Prince Dorovana frames Lunuganga as a landscape that invokes and welcomes queer presences. Nissansala and Perera will also lead a detour (a non-traditional tour focusing on queer ecologies) of the garden to accompany the installation during the To Lunuganga Season 3 launch weekend.

As International Pride Day approaches on 28th June, the Geoffrey Bawa Trust will continue its interrogation of Lunuganga as a space of queer safety, discourse, and creative proliferation. The Order of Nature is on view now. It will feature as part of the Season 3 launch of To Lunuganga between 11th and 14th July. For more information, please visit


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