Hellfire, Negombo, Sri Lanka


Negombo. This was the last day of my trip in Sri Lanka, before India and after Singapore. My sister had left the day before and I was just killing time loitering around this small town just north of Colombo. It’s a handy stopping-off point for tourists visiting Sri Lanka: close to the airport, quieter and cleaner than the bustling, polluted capital, it’s a good place to start or end a trip to the country.

I saw the Hellfire Bin as I explored the attractions along the main road of Negombo; boutique hotels with adjoining exhibition spaces and bars, jewelry shops for tourists and guest houses for all budgets. The bin is striking: it brings to mind both the flames of hellfire and of an incinerator, somehow appropriate for a very Catholic town. What would Dante have thought? I wondered who had glued this paper onto this otherwise ordinary bin and why, and whether the day’s rubbish mysteriously combusted every night.