June 20, 2016

The Bonto Bahari region, where we build our ships in South Sulawesi, is the heartland of the Konjo boat builders.  The men of this local community, part of the Bugis ethnic group are renowned seafarers and famous for their brilliant boat building skills.  It is said that they have been able to build and exploit their ships for more than four centuries.  These master crafts men have passed their traditions and knowledge orally from father to son, it is mind blowing to watch them work on the beach using their ancestral skills and natural gifts.  Their building techniques which thrived in the times of piracy have amazingly remained unchanged as time passed.

Needless to say, the history of the local people is remarkably rooted in the boat building tradition. Considering the age old Konjo culture, this unique craft is also steeped in animist ancient beliefs. Despite the recent dominance of the Muslim religion in the area, the locals are people of many creeds in the supernatural world.  They interpret the history of their origins and of the region through myths such as the legend of Sawerigading part of the La Galigo cycle tale.  The construction of a boat involves many significant rituals which add to the spirituality of the creative process and covey strength and soul to each ship.

Watching the construction of a ship in this region is always a pledge to an outstanding cultural experience and a travel back in time.

Legend states that a prince named Sawerigading was sailing in a cursed magical boat trying to return to his true love, his sister.  During this journey he encountered a huge storm and his boat broke into pieces in the Straits of Selayar.  As story goes the body of the boat was washed ashore at Tanah Beru and Ara giving the people their inspiration for boat building.  The mast, rigging and sails were washed ashore at Bira, which gave the people an idea of how a boat works.  The young men of Bira traditionally become sailors and even now travel the globe with cargo ships and tankers, whereas the young men of the other villages traditionally become boat builders like their fathers and grandfathers.  These skills are passed down orally from generation to generation and still flourish today.