AkuruCon 2021: celebrating a multilingual Sri Lanka | Sunday Observer

AkuruCon 2021: celebrating a multilingual Sri Lanka

15 August, 2021

We live our lives constantly bombarded with letters. It’s a part of life that we’ve just learnt to accept. However, take a step back and think, what exactly are ‘letters’? The more we think about these seemingly abstract scribbles that we have assigned meaning to, the more we realise that letters are one of the greatest inventions of man and it should be celebrated!

And this is exactly what AkuruCon 2021 does.

AkuruCon 2021 is the only conference celebrating the complexly wonderful letter forms of Sri Lanka and in 2021, this conference is being held for the second time. Organised by the ‘Akuru Collective’ in collaboration with the Institute of Typography, their aim is to inspire interest in language and typography, not only in Sri Lanka but also in the South Asian region.

This year the conference is taking the conversation towards a multilingual Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic country with diverse languages and cultures intermingling with each other. Many writing systems have fused together in creating a rich typographic landscape of Sinhala, Tamil, Thaana, Arabic and Chinese. This diversity will be the centre of discussion at AkuruCon2021.

The first AkuruCon happened in 2018 in collaboration with the Embassy of the Netherlands focusing on the revival of shared typographic heritage between Netherlands and Sri Lanka. It was a one day conference with many workshops and presentations. In 2021 it’s bigger, better and will be held all throughout August.

Each week, the conference will discuss a specific theme of the trajectory of Sri Lankan typography over time through workshops, panel discussions and digital content.

Week 1

Paving the way towards Sinhala and Tamil typography

This panel discussion will feature prominent professionals in the local and international typography industry including Dr. Sumanthri Samarawickrama, Senior lecturer at the University of Moratuwa. She has a PhD in typography at the University of Moratuwa. Dr. Udaya Kumar is the Head of Department of Design at the IIT Guwahati, India who is best known for being the designer of the Indian rupee symbol. Dr. Udaya and Dr. Sumantri together with Aadarsh Rajan, a Tamil type designer and Pathum Egodawatta who is also a type designer and a font engineer will explore the history of Sinhala and Tamil typography through a scientific lense. They will discuss the anatomy of Sinhala and Tamil letter forms and its distinct features. This week takes an educator’s approach to type design, looking at how research contributes to applications in the real world.

Week 2

Multilingual branding and communication in Sri Lanka

The second week focuses on the present typographic ecosystem of Sri Lanka with Nisayuru Basnayaka, Chanuka Wijayasinghe and Leyanvi Mirando as the panel moderator. The panellists will share their experiences in working with multilingual scripts in branding and communications projects. They will also focus their attention on how typography can empower the branding and communications industry in Sri Lanka.

Week 3

Digital Sinhala: the story of Sinhala UNICODE

The focus of the third week will be on the development of Sri Lankan typography for the future. Sinhala UNICODE: how it came to be, the impact of this technology on how we digitally communicate today, and what we can hope for in the future.

This discussion will be graced by Dr. S.T. Nandasara, Dhanika Perera, Pathum Egodawatta, Kosala Senevirathna and Janaka Attanayaka as the panel moderator. Dr. S.T. Nandasara is one of the pioneers in introducing UNICODE technology to Sri Lanka and this is the first time he is sharing his experience with the global creative community. The founder of Helakuru and CEO of ‘Bhasha’, Dhanika Perera will be sharing his experiences along with his visions for the future of digital Sinhala.

To add to these conversations, on August 28, AkuruCon 2021 will host an array of workshops with local and international personalities, which strive to engage the public in the creation, exploration and experience of multilingual typefaces and typography.

Workshop 1

Ranjana lipi calligraphy Workshop

Time: 9:30 am

The Ranjana script workshop by Sunita Dangol, Ranjana lipi advocate and the co- founder of ‘Callijatra’ and Ananda Maharjan, Graphic Designer and type designer, is an attempt to mainstream the endangered indigenous Ranjana lipi and bring the classroom to the learners. The workshop is designed to be a primer to the script and goes over the essentials one needs to begin writing in Ranjana calligraphy.

Workshop 2

Taste of Tamil letter forms: drawing letter forms with confidence with Tharique Azeez

Time: 12:00 pm

This joyful yet creative session by Tharique Azzez, an internationally featured lettering artist and calligrapher specialising in the Tamil script, will give you a great way to try yourself drawing Tamil letter forms expressively. The workshop session consists of brief lectures, interactive discussions and hands-on drawing to taste the Tamil letter forms. By taking part in this workshop, you’ll feel confident in making strokes with a pencil on paper.

Workshop 2

Sinhala-Tami-English logo design

Time: 12:00 pm

This workshop explores through practical application, the process of designing a selected logo in Sinhala, Tamil or English into a trilingual symbol. Samadara Ginige, an award winning typeface designer, Pathum Egodawatta, a typeface designer and font engineer together with Tharique Azeez, will demonstrate how to update existing logos to suit trilingual applications.


Parallel to the events of AkuruCon2021, ‘Akuru Collective’ has issued an open call to the public to celebrate the endless possibilities of Sinhala and Tamil letter forms by creating their own interpretations of letters and sharing them on social media. Following the example of #36daysoftype social media movement, #30daysofAkuru aims to stir global interest in Sinhala and Tamil typography and highlight the endless typographic and graphical possibilities of the two scripts.

This August you have the chance to change your perspective and build a deeper relationship with one of the most fundamental components of the human experience. Visit www.akurucollective.org/akurucon or check out their social media @akurucollective and explore the endless possibilities of typography.