|'Afloat beauty' of the Delta. Study on traditional boats of Bangladesh|
Bin-Doza, S. (2015). 'Afloat beauty' of the Delta. Study on traditional boats of Bangladesh, in: Themudo Barata, F. et al. (Ed.) Heritages and Memories from the Sea. 1st International Conference of the UNESCO Chair in Intangible Heritage and Traditional Know-How: Linking Heritage 14-16 January 2015. Évora. Portugal. Conference Proceedings. pp. 71-83
In: Themudo Barata, F.; Magalhães Rocha, J. (Ed.) (2015). Heritages and Memories from the Sea. 1st International Conference of the UNESCO Chair in Intangible Heritage and Traditional Know-How: Linking Heritage 14-16 January 2015. Évora. Portugal. Conference Proceedings. Electronic edition 2015. UNESCO/UniTwin/Universidade de Evora: Evora. ISBN 978-989-99442-0-6. 228 pp.
afloat, ocean, sea heritage, traditional fishing process, boat, manufacturing and crafting, Bay of Bengal, navigation mechanism, memory of the sea, cultural heritage, workmanship, craftsmanship, intangible heritage
Seventy percent of the planet is covered with ocean. To start a story about the heritage and memory from the sea, what first comes to our mind is the image of a giant floating element, of an open vastness, with the exception of ships and boats. In the several thousand years of maritime history, boats got their place in the narrative of ‘times gone by’, independently of their being related to the sea, the oceans or the river. When it comes to constructing and floating boats on rivers or the oceans – be it for trade, the conquest of a coastal strip or for the discovery of a new piece of land – ancient and medieval times are the most popular field in maritime heritage. Although this is supposed to be only a small story of maritime heritage on the planet, it takes place in a country that has the largest delta of the planet, derived through the sedimentation of the rivers that since millions of years are coming down from the Himalayas (River Ganges) and Tibet (River Brahmaputra). Its name is Bangladesh, previously known as Bengal, crisscrossed by riverbeds, involving people and the land at its margins with their endless streams of water, the huge rivers widening like a sea and surrendering themselves into the mouth of the mighty Bay of Bengal. The ocean in the southeastern region of the subcontinent has been a very potential maritime route since the time of the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea. Thus, it is no wonder that boats, rivers, sea and alluvial lands are coming to our mind when we are talking about Bangladesh. Fishing is the primal occupation in its coastal region. The trading in frozen fish is an important economical asset, with the country exporting frozen fish into different parts of the world. The deltaic coastline is about 580 kilometres long. The territorial water of Bangladesh extends for 12 nautical miles (22 km), and the exclusive economic zone of the country is 200 nautical miles (370 km). This explains why the coastal line of Bangladesh is vibrant with fishing tradition and boat crafting, as well as an infinite source for apprenticeship and cultural tradition. Boat manufacturing and crafting is a traditional practice that is inherent to this area. Particularly the versatile fishing boat of Bengal demonstrates a series of different morphological aspects. The skill of crafting a fishing boat is a not widely known intangible form of heritage, an art that is still practiced and passed on to the descendants of the ancient fishermen. Yes, the legacy of sculpting these traditional regional coastline boats, together with the scientific knowledge of how to make them float safely in the middle of the river as well as in the sea is still in place, and practiced whilst people go for fishing for a couple of days or months. About 20 or 25 years ago, the riverine Bangladesh still maintained a series of versatile boat types floating along river routes. Then, more than 50 different boats and vessels cruised the rivers and the sea, of which almost 90% are extinct. The aim of this paper is to document some of the beautifully crafted and specialised vessels that still could be seen a few years back, as well as the development of traditional fishing boats particular to certain communities. It intends to analyse how the construction is carried out, what the materials for the building of this floating element are, and how craftsmanship continues to rely on traditional methods, thus documenting the splendour and the beauty of the boats that are the subject of this research. Additionally, the paper will present a scientific analysis in terms of navigation mechanisms and fishing processes in the open sea.