Fresh Light on “Terradas” and “Gelves”
This article investigates the characteristics of traditional Indian Ocean vessels, based on the observations of Europeans since 1600. Related to the modern dhau (dhow), these ships share a number of key features: steering by ‘rudder-bands’; matting sails with one or two reefs; and unique stem-head decorations. The modern East African vessels called mtepe have some of these elements, and can be traced back to sailors from the other side of the Indian Ocean. Like its predecessors, the mtepe is constructed without nails, being instead made of thin planks sewn together. A number of sketches illustrate the piece.