SURA MEDURA Residency, Spring 2019 – Blog post :
Six weeks in Sri Lanka working alongside and in collaboration with 8 other artists in residence. We are staying together at Sun Beach Hotel in Hikkaduwa, and working in a new purpose built residency space in the fishing village of Dodanduwa.
One of our first experiences together was a visit to the Tsunami Photo Museum and hearing personal accounts from this tragic event on boxing day 2004. The images are highly disturbing, and the personal accounts are equally so. A wave travelling at 800 kmph hit the coastline without warning. Buildings were torn apart, fishing boats were destroyed, a train full of people was tossed upside-down and the tracks ripped up and mangled. In Sri Lanka, 35 thousand people died and half a million lost their homes. It is extremely sobering to be present and hear such harrowing personal accounts from a survivor. I know there will be more stories to hear about the Tsunami during my stay.
Visiting 15 years later, the fishing village of Dodanduwa is back up and running with a harbour full of boats and a lively fish market. Neil Butler (who runs the Sura Medura residencies) played a large part in fund-raising to head up a scheme to re-build the fishermen’s boats at Dodanduwa.
In the first few days, I spent some time visiting the fishing harbour to find out more and meet the locals. I was greeted by an attractive mosaic of boats with masts made from tree branches and distinctively colourful paint-jobs. Each boat is a long thin ‘Vallam’ (beak boat) which, on it’s own would be incredibly unstable, so they have an out-rigger for balance. The parts are lashed together with rope, giving them a slightly make-shift appearance.
I chatted to some fishermen. They go out in the afternoon , around 5pm, and fish all through the night to return at 9am with their catch; often as much as 100kg.
My first thoughts were… “ At night?”… “For that long?”… “in an ocean with waves like that?” … “in that boat?” …. seems like a tough and dangerous job.
Fishing at night means the fish can’t see the net in the darkness, and calamari are attracted to light, so can be lured over with a torch.