Wet lands, taro fields and marshy lands are unique features of Fuvahmulah. And hau, plant used to weave mats, are found in abundance. So a tradition of weaving kenal, mats was an integral part of the island’s craftsmanship.
How it is made
First the leaf (reeds), or hau, is collected and left to dry in the sun. It is then dyed in a variety of natural colors- most often black, brown and yellow – this is done with natural dyes. Once the reeds are ready for weaving, they are turned over to master weavers who are specialized in creating very intricate patterns and designs in the form of a mat. A kenal is created with beautiful, elaborate and ornate designs.
kenal is traditionally produced by women and the skill is handed down by generation – mostly from mother to daughter.
Mats are weaved with the simple devices. The varying patterns are produced using a simple loom and a knife which is used to slit the screw-pine leaves. Only a knife (used for splitting screw-pine leaves) is used for making kenal besides the loom of wood with the reed of split bamboo.
Kunaa is used for sleeping, seating or praying, mats are still presented as gifts to visiting foreign dignitaries.
kenals were presented as royal gifts in ancient times. The Dutch and British governors of Ceylon were presented with such mats by the Sultan of Maldives.
The mats are woven in different patterns and sizes to meet the needs. Sleeping mats, prayer mats, swing seat mats, etc each have specific patterns. Each of these patterns is uniquely identified by its name.