Hikkaduwa School of Design


As a kid I’ve taken signage the along the tourist strip of Sri Lanka’s south west coast for granted. Lately on travels south, I’ve started to notice a strange fun richness in them. Something which I loosely term the “Hikkaduwa School of Design” to describe signage associated with tourism – not just along the Galle-Colombo road but also anywhere else in Sri Lanka.

There’s a lot to be fascinated about: the earnestness, the language play. Imagery that says more about the makers of the signs than the intended audience. The common dust that coats these signs is the tense desperate smile of third world poverty reaching out for the hard currency dollar, Euro, Pound etc on holiday. To me its most visible  imagery and language of the signs which reflect what the local think the foreigner craves. For those from and/or in the know about first world cultures (such as perhaps most of the SLB), it comes off as a goofiness that will make for fun email attachments.

There is a distinct whiff of the 1970s and early 1980s in these signs. Or perhaps these are copies of copies that started off in the industrialised bulk tourism of that time. Before the war of course. Times must be tough in the world of low budget tourism these day. But best not speculate too deeply without the facts (which I don’t have right now).

Top Secret Beach Restaurant & Coffee Bar sign

Definite James Bond imagery (or I’m doing my usual thing of reading too much into signs).

Top Secret Beach Restaurant & Coffee Bar sign

Multilingual Signage

Seems intended for a local audience – though it doesn’t exactly alienate non-Sinhala speakers. 😉

Multilingual Sign

The Sinhala words are (from top to bottom)

  • Morning
  • Daytime (can also mean lunch time – Noon)
  • Night/Evening
  • Food

More pictures when there’s time to write something and upload.

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9 thoughts on “Hikkaduwa School of Design

  1. next time you past Galle town, look out for ” Live Pet Shop” by the main road, land side just befor you approch the bridge by the Galle Port.can’t miss, got a big sign with a pix of a ‘chineese carp (a fish!)’ .
    talk of the town’ ” dead pet shop’ got closed down-post tsunami!!! (joke)
    by the way, Cerno, seems to be active , in blogging ..post-marriage!!!
    keep the gr8 pix coming in!

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  2. Jack Point: Happy to hear that 🙂 Will get the rest added soon.

    tinker: Thank you 😀 for the good wishes (and the tip). With a bit of task management, and blogging on my PDA I’ve managed to keep up the monthly blog post count. Lets see how long that lasts

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  3. TOP SECRET BEACH RESTAURANT hahaha!.. i saw that one whilst going through galle road, we even stoped for lunch unfortunately it was a poya day and aparently they didnt serve…hahaa…one of the best signs i have seen was in kolpity…it was a electronic gadget shop pf sorts and it had a list of things they had, and one of the items was i-pot (instead of i-pod)…! wonder why apple ddnt think of that!… ( i hope there isnt a gadget called i-pot already, otherwise the guy who owns the shop would be the one who’s having the last laugh! )

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