Saturday, 16 July 2016

the nicobari canoe - the lifeline of these islands

an "Ap" in the carnic waters
                           Nicobarese hodi or "Ap" or  "Ri" as it is called  further south than carnicobar and chowra, used  for  a gamut of activities like fishing, for "Asol Ap" (canoe racing) and for pleasure rides,  is made up of a single hollowed-out tree trunk with a single outrigger for support and is quite narrow, usually decorated with traditional and pre-christian motifs. Its beauty lies in its very lightness and maneuverability which makes it a much more dependable option than typical "dinghys" or even more sophisticated gemini boats in the tempestuous waters of bay of bengal as it can easily be flicked to drain the water that could have got in due to those furiously raging waves, making another boat heavy and susceptible to submergence.
The inhabitants of chowra island (in nicobar district) known for their eldritch and shamanic powers clearly dominated the trade of wood, arecanuts, lime etc which was done for manufacturing these canoes and were feared and admired so, that their canoes ( apart from pottery) were used by most other islanders as the rituals done by the chowrite shamans "kamasuon" seemed to have bestowed a protective power over these canoes. The sea-worthiness of the "ap" can hardly be challenged as even today it epitomises the very best of indigenious watercraft traditions. With length varying from 2m to 25m, these canoes are a sight to behold on the turquoise blue waters of these islands and especially during the canoe race. 

two "ap" decorated with kevadi  leaves stationed outside malacca village community hall
photo : Pandava Sreenu, NRHM

the link to a beautiful video on the "asol ap" day. 
courtesy : Greatheart Nicobari