The restoration of Lamu Town on the island of Lamu off the north coast of Kenya has brought to life an exquisite, decorative craft that had been lost since the days of the Sultans, 150 years ago.
GV PAN Lamu Town with old buildings (2 shots)
GV Broken walls (2 shots)
CU Pattern-plastered wall with alcove (2 shots)
SV Workman restoring wall plaster
GV Workman preparing plaster
CU Patterns being formed in plaster on wall (2 shots)
GV Man at work
GV Restoration site
Initials CL/1650 WH/AH/BB/1705
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: The restoration of Lamu Town on the island of Lamu off the north coast of Kenya has brought to life an exquisite, decorative craft that had been lost since the days of the Sultans, 150 years ago.
Lamu, which had its first period of greatness in the 13th century, was one of the last towns on the East African coast of flourish before the arrival of the European colonists -- and today it is the best preserved.
As some of the town's beautiful ruined mansions have begun to be restored -- by the Government for official use and by private owners with an interest in history -- a unique style of carved plaster decoration has been taken up by the modern craftsmen where their forefathers mysteriously left it off years ago.
The plaster carving was the chief beauty of the houses of Lamu, Pate, Siyu and many other coastal towns during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
It is not known precisely how, or when, the craft came into being, but it could have been an adaption in plaster of coral decorations which probably adorned the old houses.
The decoration was applied mostly around wall niches, forming complex arabesques of fantastic design. Suddenly, around 1800, the means--or the desire--to decorate the houses in this unique way seems to have disappeared.
Now, it has been resurrected by the local craftsmen who have been employed on the restorations. They soon developed a formula for plaster that closely resembles the authentic material--although only time will tell if it will prove as hard-wearing.