A project of the Centre for Research-Creation in Digital Media at Sunway University, Kuala Lumpur Malaysia
This research-creation project was undertaken to digitally capture, archive and preserve the livelihood of the Hainan Boatbuilder of Pangkor Island, Perak, Malaysia. It has four parts.
The workers begin the process by setting the bow stem and keel for a new boat.
“We start by building the main bones for the boat (frames). Three sections are the most important, the boat’s head (bow), bone (keel) and tail (stern), these three main components.”
Master builder Mr. Goh discusses next steps.
Templates are used to trace out the boat framing pieces.
Templates hanging ready to use for each boat design.
Frame components bolted together - ready for planking.
The boat's structure takes shape.
“Shaving, sawing and shaping all the large wood frames for the boat that you see here. It is all done by me and the boss.”
Here the workers heat the planking boards with a blow torch, gently bending each one to shape, fitting perfectly onto the boat hull.
Heavy galvanized metal spikes are hammered into pre-drilled holes to secure each plank.
Each spike is carefully countersunk by hand.
After the planks are nailed into the frame, the gaps between them are sealed using cording.
The traditional craft of building a large wooden fishing boat comprises both intangible and tangible forms of heritage that could disappear due to contemporary issues.
This exhibition and the research-creation project that contributed to it is dedicated to Mr. Goh and his team of craftsmen on Pangkor Island, Malaysia.
Five capture trips were completed to document the whole building process of the fishing boat, over the span of one and a half years. A total of two hours of interviews were completed with the master boatbuilder Mr. Goh Boon Kong. Two senior craftsmen were interviewed in a total of one hour each. A set of openended questions were given to the translator who spoke at length with the interviewees.
Audiovisual data was captured extensively to document the stage-by-stage workflow including the wood delivery to the workshop, the prayer rituals held and the final boat launching process. This was done using a Full HD and a 4K mirrorless camera, a GoPro Hero action camera and an aerial drone. A 360-degree camera was also used to capture the environment and the workshop, to provide a virtual audience experience.
The data was further used to produce a twenty-four minute video documentary that unfolds the personal story of this unique boatbuilder of Pangkor Island. It premiered at the Canada- China International Film Festival, Montreal Canada, September 2016.
This project was produced by the the team at the Centre for Research-Creation in Digital Media (CRCDM) in the School of Arts in Sunway University, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.