The Tuk-tuk Driver and Spice Merchant, Aluthgama

Fabric #9 and #10

There’s no way you can walk around Sri Lankan towns without attracting some friendly locals.  Aluthgama, about 60km south of Colombo, is best known for its large seated Buddha statue at Kande Viharaya.  The temple attracts even greater veneration after it became a place of sanctuary in the 2004 tsunami.


The town on the other hand, on a Sunday afternoon, is quite sleepy.  However, I was soon joined on my stroll by Silva, a local tuk-tuk driver, who became my informal, impromptu guide.  He had some good recommendations at the fruit stall – “How many pounds of each do you want?

How about some spices?  Come my friend“. We step into a lean to shack, where Mr Sanduni, the local spice grinder, was sat with his son.  The open window to the shack was covered in strips of spice packs, a medley of local flavours.  Mr Sanduni was soon rummaging through buckets of spices, bringing out a teaspoon of each one for inspection.  Samples of paprika, chili powder, turmeric, saffron powder, masala, black pepper (of course) are paraded before me.  I settled on a few large packs of each.  There was a soft diffuse light coming through the window, great for Mr Sanduni’s portrait.  Silva suggested he grab a handful of spice packs for the photo.


Back in the centre of town, before I leave Silva, I shoot his portrait under the banyan tree in the centre of a traffic island, next to a group of bemused policemen.  Silva advised that I come back tomorrow for the local market.  “They sell everything, fruit, vegetables, clothing, meat, fish – everything you need.”   I promise to send a copy of the portrait – it’s in the post.


These are the ninth and tenth images in the Fabric series, dedicated to the people who hold society together – tuk-tuk drivers, spice merchants, tea makers and bread bakers.  You get the idea!  Check out more on the website.


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