Where Tea meets art, gastronomy and ethics

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver promotes Mankada as part of his ‘Jme Collection’


11th February 2012, Colombo – Mankada is an initiative of the Merrill J. Fernando Centre for Empowerment through Traditional Arts & Crafts which was set up primarily to support and empower marginalised communities living on the periphery of the Udawalawe National Park in south eastern Sri Lanka. The exquisite items produced at the Mankada Centre have now captured the attention of culinary luminary Jamie Oliver, who will feature a range Mankada items in his Jme Collection this year.

The name Jamie Oliver is synonymous with culinary masterpieces as the Naked Chef, Jamie at home, Jamie’s Great Italian Escape, Return to School Dinners, Jamie’s Chef, Jamie’s Ministry of Food, all super rated food shows with millions of viewers across the globe. He is a household name is Great Britain with a mass fan following on Facebook and twitter. Jamie believes in giving back to the community where he promotes sustainable products and practices.

The Mankada Centre was established by the MJF Charitable Foundation, an expression of the family owned Dilmah Tea Company’s philosophy of making business a matter of human service. Dilmah uses earnings from the sale of Dilmah Tea as well as its Founder’s wealth to change the lives of underprivileged or marginalised people in Sri Lanka. Amongst projects designed, implemented and funded by Dilmah Founder Merrill J. Fernando’s MJF Foundation are free schools and scholarships, empowerment of differently abled children and youth, and enabling rural communities with dignity.

Mankada is a project that was designed to sustainably empower an isolated community in Udawalawe. The MJF Foundation has trained, equipped and mentored the community in its transformation from unskilled labour to craftsmen with the associated benefits to quality of life and income. Mankada produces one of a kind handmade terracotta kitchenware, replicas of animals, pendants, mugs, teapots, tea bag holders and a variety of beautiful and original craft. The art is inspired by the Udawalawe National Park in the vicinity, home to many species of fauna and flora.

The story of Mankada is interlinked to the poverty and lack of opportunities experienced by the communities in Udawalawe. Despite the revenue generating National Park in the vicinity, the profits seldom trickled down to the adjacent communities, who lived in relative poverty eking out a living by engaging in various forms of manual labour. This was the prevailing situation when Dilmah intervened to support community empowerment by setting up a pottery centre.

Master potter Ajith Perera was commissioned to refine the skills of the potters of Mankada in order to produce pottery ware worthy of international fame. Over the past few years, the women potters and artistes of Mankada have excelled in their art with pieces of Mankada reaching far and wide through the Dilmah distributor network. British Designer Maham Anjum worked with the Mankada Centre to produce these exquisite nibble bowls and tea light holders which will appear on the Jme Collection this year and will directly support the empowerment of these women and ensure the wellbeing of their families back in Sri Lanka.


Mankada is an initiative of the MJF Centre for Empowerment through Traditional Arts & Crafts of the MJF Charitable Foundation and Dilmah Conservation. Both organisations are the outcome of Dilmah Founder Merrill J. Fernando’s commitment to making his business a matter of human service. For more details visit www.mjffoundation.org and www.dilmahconservation.org.

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