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Timber species in Malay wood carving

Said, Ismail (2005) Timber species in Malay wood carving. In: Proceedings of the International Seminar Malay Architecture as Lingua Franca, 22 - 23 June 2005, Trisakti University, Jakarta.

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Woodcarving is part and parcel of vernacular Malay architecture and craft in Peninsular Malaysia and Southern Thailand. Timber architecture, boats and canoes, hilts and sheath of weapons, musical instrument and utensils are adorned with carving motifs of flora, calligraphy, geometry, fauna and cosmic features Apart from the knowledge and skills on woodcarving, selection of timber species is a determining factor in the making of the carving. This study investigates the criteria used by Malay craftsmen in selecting timber species for their carvings. The method of investigation include (1) review of measured drawing reports of timber building from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia archive, (2) interview with woodcarvers on small and intricate crafts, (3) interview with caretakers or residents of the buildings, and (4) literature review on timber species from Forest Research Institute Malaysia archive on timber classification and its characteristics. Information from the drawings, interviews and literature are triangulated to obtain the types of carved components in architecture and crafts, types of timber species and reasons of their selection. It is found that the Malay woodcarvers observed three factors in selecting timber species for their carvings. The factors are availability of timber, physical characteristics and durability, and craftsmen’s spiritual beliefs towards the timber species. Most carved building components are made from heavy hardwood species such as cengal and merbau because of their strength and durability and availability of sawn timber in large volumes. Motifs of flora, calligraphy, geometry, fauna and cosmic features are depicted on to the components as well as to crafts such as weapons, utensils, tools and furniture. However timber species with fine grains and lustrous surfaces and believed to possess strong spirit such as kemuning and kenaung are carved into hilts of weapons. These criteria address the intrinsic knowledge of the woodcarvers upon the beauty and meaning of tropical timbers and hence in the identity of the carving.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Uncontrolled Keywords:woodcarving, vernacular Malay architecture, timber species, craftsmen, hardwood species
Subjects:G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GV Recreation Leisure
Divisions:Built Environment
ID Code:813
Deposited By: Azura Baharudin
Deposited On:22 Feb 2007 03:30
Last Modified:06 Sep 2017 04:58

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