The Vesak Poya was over and now, it is Poson Poya is around the corner and traditional clay lamp makers are still hard at work. However, many of those engaged in this small-scale industry lament that they face much hardship and receive little assistance from anyone. They also complain that profits from the sale of these lamps actually go to middlemen. Heenhamine (69) of Hambantota comes from a family that has been engaged in the industry for generations. She said the main issues they have at present are the lack of places to find clay in order to make the lamps. Meanwhile, the disease that’s affecting coconut trees in the region at present has also made it difficult to find good coconuts. “This is a major issue since coconut husks are an essential element to make clay lamps,” she explained.
She also complained that traditional clay lamp makers were also being inconvenienced by people who were engaged in the industry without having any idea of how to make proper traditional clay lamps. This results in a lot of inferior products being sold in the market, she noted.
H.L. Indika (35) said they were struggling to continue with the industry because of a host of issues. “Young people are also unwilling to engage in the industry. It is only through them that we can move forward. However, it is not easy to learn this craft. Your hands need time to adjust and learn. It’s not as easy as using Facebook,” he quipped.
G.G. Nimalsiri (61) from Kumbalgama pointed out that people were more interested in colorful electric lights during the season than clay lamps. However, this does not elicit the same feelings of serenity and peace as clay lamps, he argued. He said they sold clay lamps at Rs.1.50 per lamp from their kilns. “However, in shops, they sell it at Rs.5 per lamp. Due to their fragility, a lot of lamps also get broken during transport as well as during loading and unloading. It is the middlemen who make profits most. They buy in bulk and sell after transporting all over the island”.
Those engaged in the industry are appealing to authorities to realize their plight and provide whatever assistance they can.