Tuesday, November 27, 2012

To be a Zanzibari Fundi

Mponda with Finished Ngalawa model

The Fundis (or master craftsmen of Nungwi) are not just boatbuilders, they are problem solvers, masters of the ocean, fishermen, and artists. These past weeks I have had a barrage of intense and wonderful experiences opening my eyes in what it means to be a Fundi. We finished our model Ngalawa (though I'm only partway finished with a smaller one on my own) and now I feel pretty confident about the layout of the boat and how to build a large, open ocean, Zanzibari dugout canoe. Our week began with a maiden voyage in the reed at low tide, careful not to step on urchins chasing the incredibly fast little boat.

Building an Ukafi (Swahili for paddle)

We spent a full day with adze and block plane building a gorgeous Ukafi (though varnish isn't a traditional step, I felt it was worth the protection). A curved blade is a normal design with a pointed tip. The heavier the better, it seems.

Dropping anchor at a good fishing spot

I went fishing yet again, but this time in an Ngalawa in the open ocean, pulling up fifteen or so whitefish with my line, though Juma, the Ngalawa owner must have caught 40! I finally got to see how the Ngalawa is with a paddle and sail in the sometimes rough Indian Ocean.

Adze practice
Then we began finishing a dhow, one that unfortunately I won't get to help put into the water. I learned to wield the adze with accuracy and deliberateness as well as use a bow drip and and seal the boat with cotton. Ive learned the processing of designing the dhow and building it but am far from having the immense knowledge of  a Nungwi fundi.

Mponda and Mkadara (octopus fisherman) measuring the dhow ribs

Thus my time has come to an end in Nungwi. Everyday I learn both how much theres is to know and how little I do. My respect for the people who uphold these beautiful traditions has grown in each of these days. A This week I move from Zanzibar into East Africa's great lakes.

1 comment:

  1. Kusafiri vizuri na afya, Will.
    Enjoy those "other" Great Lakes!