Building a korjaal

A characteristic of the Upper Suriname, a korjaal takes several months to build.

Written by Philip Briggs


The characteristic boat of the Upper Suriname is known as a korjaal (plural korjalen), and despite its large dimensions, around 100cm wide and in some cases up to 15m long, it is essentially a giant dugout constructed by hand over the course of several months. The first stage in the process is to chop down a tree of suitable dimensions, then hollow it out using a combination of axes and fire. Once that is done, a series of beams is wedged into the hollow trunk, gradually widening it and flattening it until the proportions are correct.

This distended trunk is to create a solid watertight hull, upon which the sides of the boat are built up using planks. A completed korjaal might fetch a price of up to SRD 10,000 depending on its size, and if you examine the boats used everywhere along the Upper Suriname, you will notice that no matter how long or short they are, the hull is always made of one solid dugout trunk.

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