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Traditional knowledge is the blueprint for a sustainable future.
When you take a moment to look at how traditional cultures around the world have created harmonious lifeways for millennia, this becomes easy to see. In many parts of the world, some live this way still today.
This is all the more relevant now with the ecological, economic, and social needs of our times demanding us to imagine new ways of making and consuming the things we need in our daily lives. At Monkey Mind, we go back to our own roots in Sri Lankan culture to translate manufacturing knowledge that goes back centuries into creating products for a modern sustainable lifestyle.
We know you are a conscious consumer, so everything we source is made by hand with natural, renewable or upcycled materials using traditional methods of manufacturing. We worry about our own practices every step of the way to make sure we minimise our ecological footprint.
Our commitment to sustainability goes beyond today’s fads. We know you are discerning and expect more from what you buy so that it lasts. We go beyond the basic quality standards to make our offerings not just functional but also durable, beautiful, cozy, and effortlessly ergonomic.
We strive to make our products accessible to everyone because we know our efforts are meaningless unless more of us can participate in a sustainable lifestyle.
Our inspiration comes from the many partnerships we have cultivated with local Sri Lankan artisan communities and small entrepreneurs. These relationships, which are always based on shared values, respect, and fairness, are cultivated to support their resilience in a volatile world.
Spending more time with them has only strengthened our position that those of us living in more “developed” economic systems are not necessarily more advanced but rather, that we have still so much to learn. We invite you on that journey with us.
Born in Virginia Beach, but raised in Sri Lanka by my mother, grandmothers and sisters, I experienced firsthand a lifestyle that is gentler and more attuned to the environment. Today, I practice anthropology at the University of Southern California’s Center for Religion and Civic Culture, where travel, research and teaching keep my eyes wide open to the stories and histories of different cultures, learning how communities adapt and wrestle with a globalizing world.
As a cultural anthropologist I understand that for humans to live a life that is more sustainable to the environment and equitable for more people, we must pay attention to the knowledge, innovations, and practices that emerge from a holistic approach to culture. Most indigenous cultures and communities that remain in touch with their artisanal histories understand that the things they make are not separate from their spirituality, food, health, or the political and economic systems that arise from these everyday practices. For instance, growing up in Sri Lanka coconuts are not just sweet sweet hydration, but their husks, leaves, trunk, flesh and sweet liqueur make their way as tools and accessories in our kitchen, gardens, the food, medicine, and our hair
Monkey Mind is my attempt to keep the folk knowledge of Sri Lankan culture alive by collaborating and innovating together with local artisans and creative entrepreneurs who share our values and vision.
I was born in the old Dutch colonial town of Galle in the southern coast of Sri Lanka and raised in the highland city of Kandy. Growing up in Kandy easily lends itself to cultural immersion as the city has been a major cultural and artistic center since the middle ages or earlier. I grew up there at a time of significant cultural and social change in Sri Lanka; the traditional ways of the older generations rapidly giving way to a recognizably modern consumer culture.
My generation was profoundly influenced by the 30-year civil war in Sri Lanka. Social upheavals of that time led many young people to make unorthodox life choices. In my case, it took the form of an interest in social activism and nonprofit work very early on, which culminated in my forming a nonprofit technology startup dedicated to developing networking software that helped nonprofits collaborate better.
Drawing from my own life experiences, I am deeply concerned about the rapid disappearance of traditional modes of life. This is both from the perspectives of the people living these lives and for the profound cultural loss that it entails for us all. I think older cultures have valuable lessons to teach us in our efforts to live more sustainably and equitably. I feel that for traditional ways to be conserved effectively, they need to be translated and recontextualized to suit the needs of our times. In that sense, the modern conscious consumer may be our best advocate. This is what that Monkey Mind project is really all about.