Entry Title: "The Fishermen of Sri Lanka – A Life of Sacrifice "
Name: Nora De Angelli , Romania
Category and Expertise: Deeper Perspective, Non-Professional


Entry Description: The first day of my trip, which was going to be one of most disturbing days of my stay in Sri Lanka, my guide took me to the Lellama, the country's second-largest fish market, a basic concrete construction with large open areas and a few wooden tables, situated on the crowded beaches of the Indian Ocean. While preparing to take the first shots, I noticed a young man sorting the dried fish, nearby. After asking for his permission to take a photograph, I noticed he was fluent in English, so I engaged him in a short conversation about his family, their work and the kind of lives they had as fishermen. There were no words that could have described the harshness of these peoples lives, the sad resignation and the sacrifice of their existences, but at the same time, the kindness and the candor of their smiles I got in return.

Story: August, 2013. Negombo, Sri Lanka. The first day of my trip, which was going to be one of the most disturbing days of my stay in Sri Lanka, my guide took me to the Lellama, the country's second-largest fish market, a basic concrete construction with large open areas and a few wooden tables, situated on the crowded beaches of the Indian Ocean. While preparing to take the first shots, I noticed a young man sorting the dried fish, nearby. After asking for his permission to take a photograph, I noticed he was fluent in English, so I engaged him in a short conversation about his family, their work and the kind of lives they had as fishermen. He showed me around and told me his story. His name was Tikiri. For generations his family of fishermen lived in abject poverty. They sleep on the beaches along the ocean shores, next to the places where they work for most of their lives. The sheds are made of palm leaves and rotten wood, covered with plastic bags or various pieces of torn cloth. The men are regularly forced to head out to the ocean to fish, often for months in a row. Relying mainly on their traditional fishing knowledge for their livelihood, using outrigger canoes carved out of tree trunks and nylon nets, they bring in modest catches from September through April. If the demands are high, they continue to fish the whole year around. Their boats are called oruvas (a type of sailing canoe) and paruvas (a large, man-powered catamaran). They are said to have originated in the islands off the Mozambican coast, being brought to Sri Lanka by Portuguese traders at the beginning of the 17th century. Traditionally, the immense heaps of fish they catch, consisting of crabs, shrimps, cuttlefish, stingrays and many of the native species, are dried under the melting equatorial sun, covering numerous immense rugs spread all over the unbearably smelling beaches. Some fishermen, equipped with long, sharp machetes, cut the giant fishes into smaller pieces, others simply use their fingers to pull out the gills and guts of the fish. Next to them, groups of women sort the catch for the buyers, sitting on the sandy floors, which gradually turn crimson red. Shockingly, they are surrounded by thousands of blood seeking crows, devouring everything in their way, a scene resembling Hitchcock’s horror films. Occasionally, vagabond dogs show up, stealing the rotten leftovers soaked in mud, sand and fish blood. The powerful smells and sights stayed with me for weeks. Tikiri’s story had to be heard by the world and their lives changed for the better. I quietly approached his family to take a picture of the distressing scenes in front of me. There were no words that could have described the harshness of these peoples lives, the sad resignation and the sacrifice of their existences, but at the same time, the kindness and the candor of their smiles, which I got in return of mine.

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