Cane and Bamboo
Work is carried on by settlers from Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. They are capable of making various items according to designs provided. Left to themselves, they generally copy designs from old catalogues. Beautiful whole cane baskets made out of thin cane twigs that are not split, are used by women for carrying market produce and for storage. A cheaper type is used by laborers engaged in construction work. Mention may also be made of the cane work done in the cellular jail. It is mostly furniture made to order. The total number of artisans engaged in cane and bamboo work in the Andaman is estimated at about fifty. One craftsman in Webi village, in the Middle Andamans was engaged in hats of palm leaves and bamboo strips. Another was specialized in making walking sticks and billiard sticks out of marblewood.
A fairly large number of shell workers, organized as private units, function in the islands. Their products extend from cleaned and polished decorative shells to table lamps, ashtrays, Jewellery and buttons. There is much scope for improvement and expansion of sales in this field. A number of finer objects, for example can be made from the polished shells with their pearly shine. An interesting resource material is Tortoise Shell, large shells in beautiful shades are available here and could be put to very imaginative use. Small boxes round and square as well as bangles made of tortoise shell would find customers quite easily, particularly in the west. So far articles such as table lamps and some jewellery and decorative items have been attempted.
Not long ago the local industries department at Port Blair initiated training in making articles out of coconut shells. The items, which include table lamps, finger bowls and other objects, have become quite popular. Jewellery made of coconut shell is another possibility, which may find an export market.
The Nicobarese too have their own craft traditions and skills, though there are hardly any professional craftsmen, and the production is not commercial. Below are some of their major crafts.
The most important craft of the people in carpentry-constructing houses, fencing plantations and making canoes of various types. The Industries Department has imparted training in the village of Big Lapati in modern furniture for making simple chairs, tables, cupboards, etc. There is very little wood carving or sculpting in Car Nicobar. In the other islands, however, certain wooden statues such as a male and female pair, as well as figures of birds and animals are made as house deities to ward off evil spirits. These wooden figures are well crafted and painted with bright colors.
Basketry and Mat Making
There are two important traditional crafts of the Nicobarese, usually carried on by women in their leisure time. Mats are made from coconut stems and Pandanus leaves. They are used for sitting, sleeping and making huts. In the mats very often light and dark leaves are interwoven to make an effective pattern. These mats are soft light, and cool, and have a glossy surface. With organized production it could be a good export item.
Another functional craft is the making of crossbows which consist of a central beam of wood with grooves and iron loops to hold arrows and quiver, and a bow shaped arc made of thinner and lighter wood its ends joined with a string. A trigger made of wood or bone is fixed to the lower portion of the beam. The cross how is used with one hand and can shoot up to one hundred fifty yards. Its novel design and trigger system make it a prized handicraft article for tourists.
Small canoe models are made from wood by shaping it with a knife and inserting miniature sails of cloth and these are in great demand by the visitors. Chowra is known for earthen pots. The clay comes from the neighboring island of Teresa, and posts are hand shaped by the women. First low fired with a fire of sticks and leaves, the finished pots have a smooth, shining surface. They are brown in color with a pattern of thick, dark, chocolate brown stripes obtained from the juice of tender coconut husk, applied before firing.