Lamu mtepe, early 20th century.
2 9 c m
actual image size: 32cm x 21cm

Lamu mtepe, early 20th century.

© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library


Model. Mtepes were a traditional type of boat used for trade in the western Indian Ocean. The hulls featured no metal fastenings, instead being 'sewn' with fastenings of hide. They were also highly decorated, and had a single sail made of matting. Contact with European ships led to sewn boats being replaced by vesels made using European construction methods. The mtepe was the last of the sewn boats, eventually disappearing in the early 20th century. Lamu, some 200 miles north of Mombasa, Kenya, has a long tradition as a shipbuilding centre in the region.

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