6 Unique Views of Sri Lanka
I have been on an adventure, one I don’t know how to share without the aid of art’s incredible, transcending language. Take photography, for instance. I used to tell my photography students that taking a photo is essentially just choosing how to frame a sea of visions. Out of the world around us, we select one small square to distinguish from the rest. To isolate like puzzle pieces from some great big puzzle.
Sri Lanka was a project in photography for me, and especially, a project in isolating visual pieces from the chaos that ensued during my visit there. Our visit for instance, began with a strike that filled the streets of Negombo and ended with the coconut-smashing festival for the Mahasivratri filling the streets of Trincomalee into the wee hours of the night. The story could be told more fully with more words, but for this particular article, I’d like to tell the story with images.
This motorcyclist argued with these women for just awhile before accepting their passionate pleas to boycott oil and stay off the roads. Their blockade is small, but their will to gather for their cause is what stops this man.
Here again the women stand by their post. Their umbrellas and skirts were my favorite visual elements of this photograph, distinguishing them as mothers and grandmothers in their household dress, breaking from their duties to fight for their rights in the hot sun.
This photograph shows a few really telling elements. The archway crowned with a painting of Jesus demonstrates Negombo’s deep pride for their cathedral, sitting proudly and ornately in the city center. The military truck tells the progression of events: the locals demanded the president’s presence and instead he sent his military men to calm them down. The military man waving communicates the excitement of locals and officials alike at the presence of a westerner with a camera. “Tell your country about what is happening here!” was the sentiment of the locals. It filled me with a strange humility. The power they think I have is an illusion as far as I can tell, but perhaps there’s more I can do in sharing their story than I’ve allowed myself to believe.
Perhaps it doesn’t look much like one, but this is a parade complete with smoke and flames from a show of fire crackers set off on the ground. Through the smoke the proudest element of the parade can be seen: the shrine from which priestly men collect the offerings of food and flowers from the people of Trincomalee. The smoke and the orange glow are the mood-setting elements of this photo and so too are the shadows of the foreground. It was indeed a buzzing glow of an event to add noise to the night.
I know this photo is imperfect. It is blurry and rusted over with an overwhelming amount of orange, but it brings me back to the commotion and celebration of the parade in Trincomalee. These coconuts have been stacked and set on fire and in just a few moments, when the shrine is about to pass, the women will hurl these coconuts to the ground in hopes that they will shatter into many pieces, a symbol of fruitful times to come.
And finally, a mudskipper. This little creature entertained me for quite some time. Like so much of Sri Lanka, it made me feel like wildlife still has a dominant presence in this world. Strange and impossible as this little water-gliding fish may have seemed in my life in Ohio, in Sri Lanka it merrily ignores any thought that it defies what is natural for fish. In this photograph it is just a slippery curve amidst a mess of red-brown earth tones. It is both noticeable and gently subtle.
It’s a small thing to offer, but perhaps these pictures can tell more than my words of a place that marked me like a handprint in wet cement.
Where are the places that exceed words in your experiences?
What are your photos that speak volumes?
Caroline Yoder Macomber is the Arts Editor for Wandering Educators. She is traveling the world soaking up all that each culture and wilderness can offer. You can find more of her musings at www.carolinetakesflight.wordpress.com or tap into the thoughts she has to share with children learning about their world at www.connecttheclass.wordpress.com.
All photos courtesy and copyright Caroline Yoder Macomber