- Travel Home
- Travel News
iReport: Blood on the beach -- fishermen of Negombo, Sri Lanka
iReporter Nora de Angelli's experience at Sri Lanka's second biggest fish market is a visceral look at coastal life here
During a vacation to Negombo in western Sri Lanka, London-based iReporter NoradeAngelli captured these extraordinary images of local fishermen and their helpers sorting and drying the day's catch. The powerful smells and sights stayed with her for weeks.
"They are surrounded by thousands of blood seeking crows, devouring everything in their way, a scene resembling Hitchcock’s horror films," she said. "Occasionally, vagabond dogs show up, stealing the rotten leftovers soaked in mud, sand and fish blood."
The first day, which was going to be one of most perturbing days of my trip, he took me to the "Lellama," the country’s second-largest fish market. It was a basic concrete construction with large open areas and a few wooden tables, situated on the crowded beaches of the Indian Ocean.
For generations the fishermen based in Negombo 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 thorn 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 knowledge for their livelihood, using outrigger canoes carved out of tree trunks and nylon nets, they bring in modest catches from September through till April. Their boats are called oruvas (a type of sailing canoe) and paruvas (a large, man-powered catamaran), and 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 fisherman, 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.
I quietly approached them in order 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 in the same time, the kindness and the candor of their smiles, which I got in return of mine.