Saturday, 8 March 2008

Beyond The Frame: Stilt Fishermen

Image © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

It's been a while since I posted an image in a Beyond The Frame context, so here's one of the famed stilt fishermen in Sri Lanka. Stilt fishing is a strange technique of fishing where fishermen wade out to poles embedded in the seabed. The origins of this unusual technique (I don't think it's used anywhere else in the world) are unknown, but it certainly works. While photographing them, I saw the fishermen haul in their catch quite easily.

Near Welligama in the south of the island, these fishermen are a fixture during the early morning and at sunset. Each fisherman has a long pole fashioned like a sort of cross stuck in the seabed about 50 yards from the shore. They wade to the poles at times when the tide and fish are moving in the right direction, they sit on the poles' horizontal bars and start fishing. I was told that each stilt position is handed down from father to son.

I photographed these fishermen for quite a while and can vouch for their success in catching small fish. To this day though, I can't understand why a German tourist -when seeing me- and on his way to another beach kept laughing hysterically. Perhaps the sight of me with seawater almost to my knees caused the hilarity?