Dugout boat in Kon Tum – a masterpiece of art on the river

Dugout canoes are one of the types of vehicles used to travel on rivers and catch fish for a long time by ethnic minorities in the Central Highlands in general and Kon Tum province in particular. However, not everyone knows the uniqueness associated with life and cultural identity of this type of vehicle, but for those who are dedicated, they are pained with the worry of disappearing…

October 9, 2014.1 ttdl
Dugout boat in Kon Tum – Illustration photo

Unique dugout boat

True to its name, the dugout boat is made from a large tree. Through the skillful hands of the workers, it becomes a means of transport and fishing for people in the villages. Ethnic minorities live along the river. No one knows when the dugout boat existed, but it has been closely associated with the lives of local people.

Village elder A Wer (Kon Ro Bang I village, Vinh Quang commune, Kon Tum city, Kon Tum province) said: In the past, when the road system and suspension bridges were not yet developed, all types of vehicles transporting goods were also not developed. There are few, so dugout canoes play a very important role in transporting people and agricultural products across the river, as well as being used to catch fish on the rivers. The dugout boat in Ba Na language is called Flung. Only this type of boat can travel on rivers in mountainous areas, which are often narrow and steep, have many rapids, have rocky bottoms, and can withstand strong impacts. The wood used to make boats is usually Sa Che (Green Star), ironwood, Breng wood, but the best is Homal wood because this tree is quite soft and easy to carve when it is fresh, but when dry it is very tough. and is sturdy and water-resistant, so it makes a very durable boat.

In the past, in order to carve a dugout boat, there had to be a group of 5-7 workers who were healthy and skilled young men who went deep into the forest to find large trees that were 30 – 30 years old. 40 years, ten meters long, trunk as big as several people holding it to cut it down. After finding a suitable tree, the craftsman uses axes and chisels to deepen the boat’s bottom, trim the boat’s bow to make it slimmer, and smooth both the inside and outside surfaces. All steps take several weeks. just completed. To create a dugout boat to travel on the river requires the boat carver to be very meticulous, keen and know how to calculate to ensure the boat is balanced from the hull to the bow, both sides of the boat, and the bottom. The boat will not tilt or flip when entering the water. Each boat is also a project, a work of art that each craftsman is an artist who has put a lot of enthusiasm and passion into it. After the boat is completed and launched, the homeowner must make a thanksgiving ceremony, including a chicken and a jar of wine to worship Giang. When worshiping, use the chicken’s blood and a little wine to water it. Get on the boat to thank Giang and pray for the boat to be durable, overcome all big waves and high water, and that day is also the day to pay the workers who created the boat…

In the past, according to the beliefs of people in ethnic minority villages, a family with a big boat proved that the family was well-off, had food and savings; Poorer families can only carve small boats. Rowing a canoe is not simple, the driver must have a steady hand, especially when traveling on river sections with strong currents, swirls, many rocks, and can easily capsize. Therefore, in the past, in the family, only the homeowner and the eldest son, who were healthy and had experience traveling on rivers, could row boats. Normally, there are two people operating a dugout boat. The first person uses the rower to steer the boat in the right direction and the second person uses a pole made of bamboo trunk to push the boat faster.

Also following village elder A Wer from ancient times to honor this type of means and create exchanges and increase solidarity; People in villages living along Dak Bla river (Kon Tum city) have organized boat racing festivals. Each village will select healthy young men who are good at rowing to compete against each other. Today, the dugout boat racing festival continues to be organized by Kon Tum province and usually takes place on January 6, both to preserve a traditional beauty and to create a jubilant and happy atmosphere in early spring.

Fear of tomorrow disappearing

In the past, almost every family living along the river had a boat to go to the fields or to one village or another for convenience. Then, when they had leisure time, they took advantage of the opportunity to find more shrimp and fish to improve their meals. family. In Kon Tum city, currently, a number of villages living on the banks of the Dak Bla River in communes: Dak Ro Wa, Ia Chim, Ngoc Bay… many people still use this type of vehicle. The peaceful wharves are still bustling with people going to work in the early morning and welcoming people back in the afternoon with corn, potatoes, and noodles filling the boat compartments. However, the number of dugout boats is now much less and most of the boats are quite old. In some localities with many rivers such as: Sa Thay, Dak To, Kon Ray… this type of vehicle is becoming increasingly absent. Many old people expressed concern and worry about whether young people growing up will still know about the slender and graceful dugout boats that have been associated with the productive and daily life of ethnic minorities for many generations. anymore!?

Standing on the dugout boat dock of Kon Jo Dri village (Dak Ro Wa commune, Kon Tum city), although very proud of the village’s rather large boat dock, old A Dang did not hide his sadness. Elder A Dang shared: Compared to many ethnic minority villages, the people of Kon Jo Dri village still have quite a few dugout boats. In the afternoon, the village’s boat wharf is still busy welcoming boats to moor. But compared to the old days, the number of boats has decreased a lot. The whole village now only has about 50-60 boats, all of which were built 4-5 years ago. Some boats are broken and people have to patch them up with pieces of zinc. Many families have switched to using corrugated iron boats and motor boats. Although they are more convenient, they cannot compare to single boats when crossing big water and rapids. carpentry. However, now, building dugout canoes is very difficult. The forests with large trees that people can hug are no longer there, and materials to make boats are increasingly scarce. Besides, the old class of people who know how to build boats no longer have the strength to hold an ax or a machete, let alone carve large trees. None of the young men in the village are willing to learn. With this job, I’m worried that if this continues, the dugout boat will just be a memory.

Saying goodbye to old A Dang, looking back at the wharf of Kon Jo Dri village, I thought to myself, I don’t know, if I come back one day, will I still see the small dugout boats lying on the wharf waiting to be transported? people cross the river like now. Preserving and preserving unique vehicles associated with the cultural and traditional beauty of ethnic minorities in the province is probably not a simple problem for localities./.