Sri Lankan–Africans from Puttalam: visiting my “long-lost relatives”!



Along a narrow trail that wound a short distance from the Puttalam /Anuradhapura road, lay the quiet village we were searching for.  We reach Sirambiandiya after a four hour trip by bus from Colombo.  We are unsure of what type of reception we will get, as the research we had done on them, told of a people who were fed up of being treated like a circus freak show!

The knowledge of their existence has since been publicised by musical performances at the Barefoot Café,  so the novelty had worn off. Yet we were still interested in meeting them, despite the possibility that they may be wary of visitors. We took the chance and were delighted to find them open and friendly.

Puttalam1I have wanted to visit them for a long time, but till a restlessness born of inchoate melancholy drove me into taking the trip, I had been postponing it.  I am curious to find out how much they have integrated into the Sri Lankan culture, perhaps due to my own feelings of displacement; I am grasping at straws, in desperate search for a source of attachment to Sri Lanka. I am hoping that they might have it, and I could learn from them. [Read more…]

Image of the Week


 Tharindu monk meditating near the sea

Waves of sea,
Break one upon the other,
[Read more…]

Profile: Veddah Gunabandiyale Aththo


Gunabandiyale Aththo is the brother of the present chieftain Uruwarige Wanniyale Attho of the Indigenous (Veddah) community of Sri Lanka – 300 km from Colombo at the remote jungle village of Dambana. Being descendants with a history dating back to 16000 BC and the ‘Vedda’ community presently comprises of around 350 families and was originally hunter-gatherers using bow and arrow to hunt games, and also gathered wild plants and honey.

Gaya: When I worked with Mahinda Jeevananda he was an Art Director at Grant McCann-Erickson and did not click a camera that often (at least not one that I knew of).  As Sri Lanka emerged from the no-travel-zone wartimes and people started moving around and gazing at the country they little knew, Mahinda Aiya took some glorious shots of the Jaffna Fort.  When I saw em I asked him whether he was into photography and it was his fervour and knowledge of the history of Sri Lanka that surprised me.  Did I know my countrymen?  Has the space for peaceful travel in our country made us evolve and realise our passion for photography, documenting communities and being out on a limb? Maybe Mahinda Aiya was all these things and I didn’t know him well. But now on the digital media he shares his work which should be on display in a gallery. iSrilankan would love to bring you  Mahinda Jeevananda’s Sri Lanka in the times ahead.

Image of the Week – Thai Pongal Celebrations in Kegalle

Photo by Thisara Nishad


Kegalle (Galigamuwa) Thamil community celebrating Thai Pongal Day January 14, 2014.

 thai pongal in kegalle

Thisara Nishad: In Kegalle, Sinhala, Tamil n Muslims have lived together, but Tamils live in several places Karandupana, Galigamuwa, Bulathkohupitiya, Galigamuwa, (away from the city). Most Tamils’ livelihood is tea plucking yet they celebrate their festivals like Thai Pongal very nicely with festivity and character.

Gaya: I love this image captured casually by Thisara in Kegalle as the posture and gait of the different participants young and old somehow give it a movement very natural and captivating. The colour, detail and the aura of peaceful purpose and carefree composure they exude make it an exceptional capture.

Lighting a Bucket Lantern with ‘Uncle’ next door !


Today was such a special day when I was a child.

Weeks ahead, the front room of my neighbours,’ the Wijesuriyas’ home, would be gradually filled with Vesak stuff. No last-minute rush or mess was allowed, for Uncle (as we used to call him) did things at a ritualistic pace repeating the activity in precisely the same way down to the last detail, each year in May. I knew the important months when I was a child in which I did something with someone and this was something special joined in by other people in the community as well and so it made that month important like Christmas in December, Palm Sunday, Easter and Avurudu in April, Vesak in May, the temple Perahera in August down the lane and the Church Harvest Festival in October.

Vesak Lantern VI

So in the front room the bucket lanterns and the candles would appear separately in their brown paper packs. As no one slept in this room there was plenty of space on the floor for preparing and lighting the bucket lanterns. [Read more…]

A mother’s tribute to her community !


Natalie Soysa: A Mother’s tribute to her CMB Community from iSrilankan on Vimeo




I’ve often complained about everybody knowing everybody’s business in too-small Colombo.
Today, I’m ready to eat my words.
I am bringing up my son in what you would call a single-parent household.
But there’s never really been just a single parent in my home.
I thought the benefit of being a photographer meant that my son’s every moment would be frozen in time.
Juggling a camera and baby was not as as easy as it looked, but I still have so many pictures of him!
And its only because he’s always in someone’s arms!
So many different arms have come to spend time with him, play with him, dance with him, change him, bathe him and feed him.
My son doesn’t have a single parent, he has a village.
Its been a wonderful reminder that humans are essentially pack animals and not isolated family units.
My son is being community raised and he’s going to be all the better for it.
This is a tribute to all the arms that have held my son close, reminding him that he is loved.
This is a tribute to my community.


Words & Photographs – Natalie Soysa




Natalie Soysa in her own words : I am a freelance photographer and journalist based in Sri Lanka who quit a 13 year career in advertising in 2010 to pick up a camera and head off on what most would call a fool’s journey.

After a few photography & photojournalism projects that feature the post-war explosion of arts & culture in the country, this June, I will be taking over as new Manager-Arts at the British Council.

Most importantly – I’m an incurable Star Wars geek.

Visit Natalie’s about me page for more info.




Photo by Indu Bandara




Image of the Week



Image of the Week

hiranya mar 1 2013 muslim fisherman in mannar


See more of Hiranya Malwatte’s captures of what is quintessentially Sri Lankan from her travels to all corners of her island home.

Listen: ‘A People Left Stranded’ by Tulie Muttulingam

The January Long-Read Podcast: iSrilankan picks up a Long-Read on an issue which may just go unnoticed by many cos it’s not about the CJ or the current political caper.

A well-researched and well-written piece with a social justice intent, A People Left Stranded by Tulie Muttulingam brings alive Muslims who are trying to return to Jaffna and build up homes from shacks on traditional homelands. A predicament that leaves people of our nation still shrouded by the clouds of war, and brings on new clouds of mistrust and suspicion both inter and intra-community.

Please leave your comments on this website or on Tulie’s blog 

Image of the Week



IMAGE OF THE WEEK: This photo was taken by Sharni Jayawardena in the village of Muruthana in Kiran, in the Batticaloa district.  People here are largely descendants of the indigenous veddah community engaging in agriculture, manual labour and (some) hunting for a living.

Sharni Jayawardena

Photography for me is neither a hobby nor a profession. It is a preoccupation.  It makes me think and keeps me focused.  A photograph is, of course, a perspective – and a choice. It is a personal statement, an interpretation of reality.  But I see each photograph I take/make more as a document than a piece of art. I think of myself as a documentary photographer.  I worked for decades as a documentary filmmaker before becoming a photographer. The shift from moving images was not a drastic or difficult one.  But it is the still image, I find, that’s the more articulate.



Image of the Week

Hands that work.... (replaced. re-processed)



Image of the Week : Hands that work


At Beliatta, Tangalla, Sri Lanka