Wood Craft

Country: Maldives
Wood carvings on a door of an old mosque in the Maldives

During earlier times before modernisation, local hardwoods such as the coconut tree were used to create a variety of items that range from simple household utensils to boats.

Wood being carved for an interior of a mosque

Maldives divides carpentry into two types—thedhui vadaan and kissaru vadaan. House building and making wooden furniture is locally known as thedhui vadaan, while kissaru vadaan is the carpentry involved in the building of dhoni, the Maldivian boat. Dhoni resembles the Arabian sailing vessel, dhow, and is the oldest known sea vessel in the country. The carpenters who build boats are called kissaru vadin.

The traditional kissaru vadaan does not involve any blueprints or plans. But rather, a head carpenter gives out instructions and measurements to the other carpenters. Around right carpenters are usually involved in the process and it takes around eight to 12 months to complete a boat. The traditional boat building material is coconut palm timber. And the height of the tree determines the length of the boat. Distinctive features of the dhoni include a raised bow and a curved tiller arm. Nowadays, imported timber and materials such as fiberglass are used in boat building, and blueprints and plans are also followed. Alifushi in Raa Atoll and Velidhoo in Noonu Atoll are well known for boat building. Miniature versions of the traditional dhoni can be found at souvenir shops.

The art of wood carvings is said to have originated out of necessity. Before import and export, wood carving was used to produce a range of household items such as spoons and bowls. Visitors can view decorative wood carvings inside mosques such as the Friday Mosque and Islamic Centre in Male’ the capital. The carvings depict intertwining patterns and Arabic calligraphy. The Islamic Centre exhibits some of the finest samples of Maldivian modern calligraphy. Wood carving is also now used to produce a range of souvenir items such as vases, jewellery boxes, and wooden animals such as turtles.