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The Imprint of Lovers

Liz Fernando

The Imprint of Lovers is a personal reflection on the perception of sexuality in a South Asian context. This work seeks an engagement with intimacy as well as societal constraints in the lives of young lovers who are often faced with circumstances which predispose them to meet in extremely impersonal, isolated spaces – more specifically budget hotel rooms that can be rented by the hour. I feel that such a kind of intimacy leads to insecurities, and the concept, when explored in a contemporary yet conservative South Asian environment, foretells a dramatic story of melancholy and catharsis, one that has personally driven me to dislodge and transcend its alleged profanity.
My practice and work has been described as a fusion of anthropology and modern photographic techniques, mainly focusing on human encounter that highlights a gap between my German identity and Sri Lankan origins. In this context, The Imprint of Lovers is in fact a direct result of my relocation two years ago to Sri Lanka, my parents’ home country, and the observations I have made on society. The body of work reflects a personal, emotional disruption where the absence of a presence, the ‘elsewhere’ lovers is indicated by a trace – not necessarily of a passionate residue, but an idea of love that lingers after the acts of love-making are over.


From the series The Imprint of Lovers Colombo, 2014

The Imprint of Lovers

Text by Michael Mendis

I’m sorry I made you leave alone, ahead of me. I’m sorry for the hypocrisy of walking in together, but not being able to leave the same way. I’m sorry for all these apologies, I’m being apologetically post-coital. I’m sorry for the bad sex.

I couldn’t dream of being the demurrer. The man at the desk would guess, with one look at the cast of my eyes, that I was on the receiving end. I couldn’t bear being yet another he-wife for his list. I had all these images ready in my head. Of you, and of the first time you trace my bones with your skin. I didn’t add details like sheets and pillows because they are usually a given. I didn’t add privacy because when you plan a painting, you just assume the canvas. Everything was meant to be clean.

You’re the most beautiful man I know. I wanted to unpeel you, not strip you. I wanted us to swim around the air, like Disney’s Aladdin and his secret friend who didn’t make it to the film, before you came free of your clothes, brown and linear and questioning.

Questioning. I expected your body to question me.

I expected a lot of laughing. Bodylaughing. Lovelaughing. I wanted to see if you knew how hair spirals, and if you knew how to follow those swirls, the curious interplay of tongues and fingers and body organs, the fluidity of all these things, roiling.

I’m sorry I wasn’t alone with you. I’m sorry for all the ghostcouples who fucked each other while you tried to make love to me, all of us sharing the same bed, pink walls garish and gruelling, the whole room the inside-folds of a woman we would naturally recoil from.

I’m sorry all I could hear was the tick of the ceiling fan, my legs in the air and you between them. I’m sorry I made you gather your things as soon as you were done. Now I have to walk out alone, maybe I should have thought these things through.

My eyes will still be cast low, and the man at the desk will still know what he needs to know. I keep insisting to myself, again and again.

One day, in a room of our own, we’ll have our first time again.