The Lacquer Crafts of the Maldives

The beautiful Island Nation of the Maldives presents one of its finest example of artistic mastery and skill; Liyelaa Jehun.

ICHCAP

Department of Heritage, Maldives

Lacquer Craft in the Maldives (2017/2017) by Department of Heritage of the MaldivesICHCAP

Liyelaa Jehun in the Maldives

Lacquer work or liyelaa jehun as known locally is an outstanding form of handicraft practiced in Maldives. It usually involves 2 different stages

Preparation of Lacquer by Department of Heritage of the Maldives and ICHCAPICHCAP

Preparation of Laa (Lacquer)

Lacquer pieces are imported from neighboring countries. Different colors of lacquer are created by mixing with coloring pigments.

Melting Laa (Lacquer) (2017/2017) by Department of Heritage of the MaldivesICHCAP

Lacquer melts easily. In the Maldives, it is stuck on a stick and melted over fire.

Scrapping Lacquer Off (2017/2017) by Department of Heritage of the MaldivesICHCAP

Lacquer is scrapped off the stick onto a flat stick while it is hot to add the coloring pigments.

Making Red Lacquer (2017/2017) by Department of Heritage of the MaldivesICHCAP

A pigment locally called uguli is added to the lacquer while it is hot.

Mixing Lacquer and Color (2017/2017) by Department of Heritage of the MaldivesICHCAP

Lacquer is folded after color is added. While constantly being flipped to bring out the perfect hue, it is beaten with a large hammer.

Red Lacquer (2017) by Department of Heritage of the MaldivesICHCAP

This is the technique used in mixing lacquer with any coloring pigment.

Yellow Lacquer (2017/2017) by Department of Heritage of the MaldivesICHCAP

Yellow lacquer is made by using a traditional medicine called Risseyo.

Flattening Lacquer (2017/2017) by Department of Heritage of the MaldivesICHCAP

After a lacquered piece cools down, it is rolled flat and stretched thin.

Cutting Lacquer Strips (2017/2017) by Department of Heritage of the MaldivesICHCAP

The lacquer is then cut into small strips to be used to add color to objects.

Liyun & Laa Jehun by Department of Heritage of the Maldives and ICHCAPICHCAP

Liyun & Laa Jehun

Liyun: The sculpting of wood. Laa jehun is the process of applying lacquer on the object.

Wood Used for Sculpting (2017/2017) by Department of Heritage of the MaldivesICHCAP

Any type of strong wood can be used for this craft. However, the most commonly used wood is Funa (Alexander Laurel Wood).

Kandhu (2017/2017) by Department of Heritage of the MaldivesICHCAP

The sculpting wood is attached to the end with melted lacquer; the metal shafts used to be made out of wood as well. A person pulls on the rope to create a spinning motion.

Sculpting Tools (2017/2017) by Department of Heritage of the MaldivesICHCAP

There are many different sizes and types of tools used to sculpt wood.

Tool Tips (2017/2017) by Department of Heritage of the MaldivesICHCAP

Each tool has a distinctly designed tip in varying shapes and sizes, which is used for different purposes

Sculpting Tools (2017/2017) by Department of Heritage of the MaldivesICHCAP

The sculpting tools are used while the wood is being spun on the Kandhu.

Smooth (2017/2017) by Department of Heritage of the MaldivesICHCAP

 
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The tools have to be used with precision to guarantee that the final product is refined and smooth.

Shape (2017/2017) by Department of Heritage of the MaldivesICHCAP

Bringing out the desired shape takes a lot of time and practice.

First Color (2017/2017) by Department of Heritage of the MaldivesICHCAP

after the piece of wood has been sculpted into shape, lacquer is applied onto it. Yellow is usually the first layer.

Color Application Technique (2017) by Department of Heritage of the MaldivesICHCAP

Lacquer is applied onto the wood as softly and smoothly as possible.

Red Layer (2017/2017) by Department of Heritage of the MaldivesICHCAP

The second layer is applied after the first one is completed. The placement of the color depends on the design chosen by the craftsman. Here, individual artistic taste matters.

Coloring and Engraving Tools (2017/2017) by Department of Heritage of the MaldivesICHCAP

Knife: used for engraving designs. Ihaa Gondi: used to evenly spread the lacquer. Dried coconut palm leaf: used for polishing.

Even Spreading (2017/2017) by Department of Heritage of the MaldivesICHCAP

A piece of wood (Ihaa Gondi) is used to evenly spread the lacquer after it is applied.

Polishing (2017/2017) by Department of Heritage of the MaldivesICHCAP

The red and yellow layers are polished before another layer is applied.

Black (2017/2017) by Department of Heritage of the MaldivesICHCAP

The yellow-coated object is concealed with another lacquer color: black. This is done so that designs can be created when the black layer is scratched off.

Even Texture (2017/2017) by Department of Heritage of the MaldivesICHCAP

The surface is continuously smoothened while applying color to make it as even as possible.

Digging (2017/2017) by Department of Heritage of the MaldivesICHCAP

A special tool is used to dig inside the wood to give it the shape of a container.

Lacquer Smoothening (2017) by Department of Heritage of the MaldivesICHCAP

The ihaa gondi is continuously moved around to uniformly distribute the lacquer across the object

Polishing (2017) by Department of Heritage of the MaldivesICHCAP

After the lacquer is smoothened, the product is polished, giving it a glossy look.

Container (2017/2017) by Department of Heritage of the MaldivesICHCAP

The end product is simple, attractive, and usable.

Laa Negun by Department of Heritage of the Maldives and ICHCAPICHCAP

laa Negun

After the lacquer coats has been applied designs are engraved on the object.

Laa Negun (Engraving Designs) (2017) by Department of Heritage of the MaldivesICHCAP

After applying lacquer, craftsmen scratch the top lacquer layer off, revealing the layer beneath which is in another color to highlight the created intricately beautiful designs.

Engraving on Vase (2017/2017) by Department of Heritage of the MaldivesICHCAP

varying styles of designs can be found on lacquered objects.

Close Up (2017/2017) by Department of Heritage of the MaldivesICHCAP

These intricate designs are made without any stencils, making each artifact a unique one in both design and shape.

The Intricate Lacquer Crafts of the Maldives (2017/2017) by Department of Heritage of the MaldivesICHCAP

The Final Product

There are unimaginably many designs and types of lacquered products, here are some of the examples.

Finished Container (2017/2017) by Department of Heritage of the MaldivesICHCAP

Small lacquered containers like this are very popular for storing jewellery and small belongings.

Colors (2017/2017) by Department of Heritage of the MaldivesICHCAP

Craftsmen conventionally use red, black, and yellow lacquer colors.

New Colors (2017/2017) by Department of Heritage of the MaldivesICHCAP

However, craftsmen improvize new more radiant mixtures of colors.

Boduberu (2017/2017) by Department of Heritage of the MaldivesICHCAP

Boduberu is a traditional drum used during ceremonies and for songs.

Masterpiece (2017/2017) by Department of Heritage of the MaldivesICHCAP

This model of a traditional Maldivian Dhoani is one of the greatest pieces of art ever created. Creating a piece with so much details and intricacy is a meticulous task that can only be completed by the finest of artists.

Credits: Story

Exhibition Designed by Hassan Mohamed, Department of Heritage, Maldives

Photography and Videography by Ibrahim Mujah and Hassan Mohamed, Department of Heritage, Maldives

Project Team: Ahmed Zameer, Ibrahim Mujah, Hassan Mohamed, Department of Heritage, Maldives

Special Thanks to Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahman of B. Thulhaadhoo Island for performing Liyelaa Jehun and the generous hospitality given to the Project Team

Project funded by International Information and Networking Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Asia-Pacific Region under the auspices of UNESCO (ICHCAP)

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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