Ayesha Abdur-Rahman

Primary research for this project was conducted by decorative arts historian, Ayesha Abdur-Rahman. Ms. Abdur-Rahman has a design and decorative arts history background from the London Institute of Central St. Martin’s College of Art and Design, School of Dress and Textiles (B.A., thesis: Mughal Costume), and the Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design and Culture, New York (M.A., History of Decorative Arts, Design and Culture, thesis: Beadwork of the South African Nguni (Xhosa and Zulu Peoples): General Principles and Guidelines for Attribution). Her thesis is based on the study of the South African beadwork collection at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. She was a curatorial intern in the museum's Department of the Arts of Africa, the Americas and the Pacific

Ms. Abdur-Rahman has held positions of Assistant Curator (1997) and Associate Curator (2005) of the Visual Media Resources at the Bard Graduate Center. She was curator of Mongolian Nomads: A Tradition of Survival, and exhibition of photographs from archival and contemporary sources at the World Financial Center Courtyard Gallery in New York (2001). She has lectured on African dress and adornment at Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, and for the Bard Graduate Center. She has taught courses on fashion design in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, and served as a design consultant for the Batik Project of the Government of the British Virgin Islands. She has owned and managed design businesses in both Puerto Rico and Sri Lanka. She is the founder of the Sri Lankan Decorative Arts Documentation Project, has worked with Sri Lanka's national museums, institutions, and private collections to gather data, and has organized workshops on Sri Lankan decorative arts in 2008 and 2009. Ms. Abdur-Rahman divides her time between Sri Lanka and Puerto Rico.

Ayesha Abdur-Rahman
Decorative Arts Historian
P O Box 300, Luquillo PR 00773, USA. Telephone 1 787 889-2714
Mulberry House, 21 Amerasekera Mawatha, Colombo 5, Sri Lanka. Telephone 94 112 588161.
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Skype: ayearm

Project consultants

Two scholars and experts in the field of colonial furniture acted as consultants to the FDASL project. Robin Jones (Southampton Solent University) and Jan Veenendaal (Connoisseur and private collector of VOC furniture and objects) edited the database descriptions and reviewed dates, materials, techniques and subjects. They both participated in the workshop on Decorative Arts in Sri Lanka, sponsored by the American Institute for Sri Lankan Studies (Colombo, 28-29 August 2008).

Robin Jones

Dr. Jones is a design historian who is noted for his research and publications in the areas of Euro-tropical furniture and domestic interiors from South Asia, 1700 to the present day. Following his education at University of Durham, UK (Modern History), he spent twelve years with auctioneers Sotheby’s and Bonham’s. He has been a university lecturer since 1992 and his PhD was on the furniture and interiors of British-controlled Ceylon. He is also author of a number of articles on that subject and contributed to the Ceylon section of a catalogue of Anglo-Indian furniture published by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (2001). His book, Interiors of Empire: objects, space and identity within the Indian Subcontinent was published in 2007. Full details of selected articles, book chapters and single-authored book are listed below:

  • ‘Hewavitarne Don Carolis: A Case Study of a Nineteenth Century Colombo Furniture Maker’, Regional Furniture, Vol. XIV (2000), pp. 74-86, ISSN 0953-0800.
  • Introductory essay and catalogue entries for nineteenth century Ceylonese furniture, in Amin Jaffer, Furniture from British India and Ceylon, (London, Victoria & Albert Museum and Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, USA, 2001), pp. 362-383, ISBN 1 85 177 3185.
  • ‘Furniture of plain but substantial kind’ at the British Governors’ Houses in Ceylon, c.1830-1860’, Studies in the Decorative Arts, Vol. X, number 1, Fall-Winter (2002), pp. 2-34, ISSN 1069-8825.
  • ‘Furniture from Ceylon (Sri Lanka) at International Exhibitions and World’s Fairs, 1851-1904’, Furniture History, Vol. XL (2004), pp. 113-134, ISSN 0016-3058.
  • ‘Furnished in English Style: Anglicization of local elite domestic interiors in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) c. 1850-1910’, South Asian Studies, Vol. 20, (2004), pp. 45-56, ISSN 0266-6030.
  • ‘British Interventions in the Traditional Crafts of Ceylon (Sri Lanka), 1850-1930’, The Journal of Modern Craft (November 2008) vol. 1, issue 3, ISSN 1749 – 6772, pp. 383-404, e-ISSN 1749 - 6780.
  • Interiors of Empire: objects, space and identity within the Indian Subcontinent, c. 1800-1947 (Manchester University Press, 2007), 256 pp. ISBN 978-0-7190-6942-0.

Robin Jones
Principal Lecturer and Programme Group Leader
Faculty of Media Arts and Society
Southampton Solent University
East Park Terrace
Southampton SO14 OYN
02380 319915
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Jan Veenendaal

Mr. Veenendaal has spent much of his time researching and writing about the furniture, silver and other objects from the VOC (Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie) Dutch East India Company. He has a background in chemistry and pharmacy, and a long career as a pharmacist in The Hague. He currently resides in Belgium. His publications include the following:

  • Yogya zilver 1930-1932. in Aziatische Kunst, 2006, p 21-27.
  • The descriptions of watercolor drawings of Ladies’ tea visit and Dutch wedding, The World of Jan Brandes, 1743-1808, Riksmuseum, (2004).
  • The VOC and Batavia, p 11-22, and Furniture in Batavia, p 23-45, in Domestic Interiors at the Cape and in Batavia; Haags Gemeentemuseum (2002).
  • The East Indies, in Tradewinds, catalogue Therien & Co, Los Angeles, US, 1999; Seventeenth century furniture from VOC settlements in Asia, in Arts of Asia, 1987, p 116-122;
  • Een zilveren sirihbladhouder (a silver sirih container), in Bulletin van het Rijksmuseum, 1987.p 10-15;
  • Een onbekend zilvermerk (an unknown - Colombo- silvermark) in Bulletin van het Rijksmuseum, 1987, p 16-21;
  • Furniture from Indonesia and Sri Lanka for Museum Nusantara (1985)
  • Het derde merk op VOC zilver (The third mark on VOC silver) in Verslagen en aanwinsten 1982-1983 van CNO, 1983, p 39-44.

Jan Veenendaal
Connoisseur and collector of VOC furniture and objects
Fortsebaan 64, 2930 Braschaat, Belgium.
Telephone 003236638777
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Participating Institutions

  • National Museums of Sri Lanka
  • Lunuganga Trust
  • Bogawantalawa Tea Estates
  • Punduloya Tea Estates
  • Sheeraz Sellamuttu collection
  • A. Mohideen collection
  • Geoffrey Bawa Estate, Colombo
  • American Institute for Sri Lankan Studies (AISLS)
  • Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC)

Special Thanks

Sincere thanks go to Dr. Nanda Wickremasinghe, Director of the National Museums of Sri Lanka, for her permission and support of this project, and to Mr. Senarath Wickremasinghe, Assistant Director, who worked closely with Ms. Ayesha Abdur-Rahman and arranged the visits the branch museums to photograph and research the furniture collections. Thanks also to Ms. Myrie Munasinghe, Assistant Director, and Mr. Ranjit Hewage, Curator of the Colombo Museum, for their help and support. Many thanks to Ms. Meneka Nishanti, Research Assistant, who has diligently worked with Ms. Abdur-Rahman to supervise the measurements of furniture in Colombo and Pettah, and for her assistance in pouring through the registers to find accession numbers and cataloging information. We wish to also thank the Curators of the branch museums; Mr. Senadira in Galle; Mr. Stanley Perera in Pettah; and Mr. Chandimal in Kandy, who together with their staff have made this project possible. Last, thanks to Channa Daswatte who worked closely Ms. Abdur-Rahman at the Geoffrey Bawa home in Colombo and made a presentation on the Bawa Collection for one of the project's workshops.

Technical Assistance

Image database created by Hudson Microimaging, Port Ewen (NY).