Today we’ll be exploring a few more local industries around Mawanella in the Kegalle district.
First up is pottery! There are over 50 pottery shops around the Kegalle area along the Colombo to Kandy road.
Decorative clay wares have been a staple of Sri Lanka for over a thousand years. Excavations of ancient clay burial urns and figurines predate the island’s written history. Sri Lanka’s strategic location between traders from the Middle East and China also served as inspiration for local potters as they saw new clay techniques and decorations.
Red clay sourced from riverbeds is readily available and yields the orange-red pottery that is most recognisable in Sri Lanka today. Currently potters who make household goods are facing a tough market saturated with imported items as well as competition with more modern materials like aluminum and plastic. Traditionalists still swear by the sturdy properties of clay and say (among other anecdotes) that the older the clay cooking pot, the better the flavours will develop in the food.
Simple red and black lines are the most common decorations on the clay pieces, sometimes including etches or stamps on more intricate designs. In the shop we went to visit, besides traditional water jugs and pots, they experimented with creating artistic clay figures and elephants which are more intended for tourists to purchase.
Fruits in Sri Lanka are so popular that the combination of tourism and domestic demand occasionally threatens the country’s export industry.
Rambutans, king coconuts, wood apples, mangosteen (my personal favourite), dragonfruit, and red bananas are just some of the rare fruits you can find here on the island that are so attractive to visitors and locals alike.
Street vendors are an integral part of the economy around Mawanella and often provide the main source of income for their households. It’s recommended that the best fruits can be found on these roadsides stalls as opposed to buying them in a supermarket – supermarkets often spray their produce with water and chemicals to make older fruits appear fresher.
The leather industry in Sri Lanka is still in its emerging stages with a lot potential for future development. Leather footwear is making its mark in Sri Lanka and also among markets abroad in Europe.
The industry is quite labour intensive and would be useful for creating specialised jobs for Sri Lankan youth in particular. There are over 1000 small leather craft businesses throughout Sri Lanka now, and we visited one in Mawanella with a penchant for creating stamped bags, poofs, and other goods.