In search of the Malwatu Oya

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Thilini Wikramasinha, Yehali Sangakkara, Hiranya Malwatta (river team photographer), Eduard Hempel developer of Tamba Villas/Logistics and Transportation sponsor, Dr. Sinha Raja Tammita Delgoda – Director/Producer and Launch Co-lead of the film, Kumar Sangakkara, Shanika Daluwatta Production sponsorship: Shanika Daluwatta Weerasundara – Teqlaa Solutions, Production Sponsor

The Tamba Villas team – Carlita Weerasinha, Eduard Hempel, Trevor Morgan and 

Emma Johnson

Three years ago Eduard Hempel the developer of Tamba Villas in Thalpe received an invitation to see Sri Lanka’s north western coast. 

To the north of the great forest of Wilpattu, was once the kingdom of Sri Lanka’s feared Sea 

Tigers, the naval arm of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). It was a wild and distant place. Dry and semi-arid, full of forgotten manmade lakes; it was steeped in a history which went back thousands on thousands of years. A line of little bays and coves reached up the coast. In one place the land opened in a great sweeping curve, as a river poured towards the sea. This was the Malwatu Oya, Sri Lanka’s most historic river. 

A broad, slow current stretched in the distance, flowing far inland. Meandering through the heart of the island’s Dry Zone, it became the foundation of Sri Lanka’s great irrigation civilisation, one of the wonders of the ancient world. 

In 2018, the day after Sinhala New Year, Hempel and his friend set off on a canoe up the 

Malwatu River. As they paddled they heard great crashes, the sound of crocodiles sliding into the water. They went up further and further. As the day turned, they finally headed back, rowing all the way to where the river met the sea. They had been missing for several hours and the navy was about to start looking for them. 

A year later, Hempel retraced his route, this time as part of an expedition to explore the heart of Sri Lanka’s irrigation civilisation, in search of the Malwatu Oya. They travelled along the river for several days, rowing, capsizing, thinking, seeing and learning. 

Taking photographs, they read and researched the past, putting their work together. Unaided and unfunded, they poured their time and their energies into this search, gradually the bones of the bones of story unfolded. Funded by a Sri Lankan, finally they were able to make a film. 

This documentary, ‘In Search of the Malwatu Oya’, was launched on 23 October at the 

National Film Corporation. Its Director, Producer and Launch Co-lead is Dr. Sinha Raja 

Tammita-Delgoda, Associate Director and photographer Hiranya Malwatta, while the Production Sponsor is TeqLaa Solutions, Launch Sponsor is Hayleys Agriculture Holdings, with the Logistics Sponsor being Hempel Holdings/Pearl Properties/Tamba Villas. 

The premiere was an exclusive by invitation only, eclectic launch ceremony, attended by leading professionals from various fields [law, medicine, diplomatic, academia, software, technology, business, tourism, security forces, finance and officials from the public sector], as well as guests from foreign countries. 

The film which is 45 minutes in duration, is dedicated to the children of Sri Lanka’s irrigation civilisation. The profit from the event goes to the benefit of Educate Lanka to fund scholarships for the children of the farming families. Educate Lanka: