Artline S02E04 | Ghassan El Bakry | Lebanese Miniature Ship Builder

Fine Line Production interviewed miniature ship builder Ghassan El Bakry for the fourth episode of ARTline season 2.

Ghassan was born in El Mina, Tripoli in 1988. He studies architecture in the Faculty of arts and architecture at the Lebanese University.

Lebanese people have always had pride in the notion that Phoenicians (Ancient Lebanese) were the first to ever sail in the region. Historians have neither confirmed or denied that notion, however, the evidence of that notion is overwhelming all over Lebanese archaeological sites.

Inspired by his father, he learned building miniatures of Lebanese old homes. Due to his proximity to the sea, Ghassan started building miniatures of ships of all models and sizes. His main motivation is people who appreciate his handcraft work because according to Ghassan, people should be able to understand the relationship between the artist’s brain and hands.

“I hope that one day I can get the chance to exhibit my models in any international maritime museum (maybe to have a permanent pIace there signed by me) why not!” – Said Ghassan.

Ancient ship and boat models have been discovered throughout the Mediterranean, especially from ancient Greece, Egypt, and Phoenicia. These models provide archaeologists with valuable information regarding seafaring technology and the sociological and economic importance of seafaring. In spite of how helpful ancient boat and ship models are to archaeologists, they are not always easily or correctly interpreted due to artists’ mistakes, ambiguity in the model design, and wear and tear over the centuries.

In the Ancient world, ships “were among the most technologically complex mechanisms of the ancient world.” Ships made far-flung travel and trade more comfortable and economical, and they added a whole new facet to warfare.

Archaeologists have determined that Ancient Greek ship models were used as burial or votive offerings and as household articles such as lamps or drinking vessels. The kinds of ships depicted in Ancient Greek models can be classified broadly as small craft, merchant vessels, and warships. Models were cast in different materials, including wood, bronze, lead, and clay.

Greek warships were popular subjects to be made in miniature. One particular model, acquired by the Staatliches Museum (engl.: Land museum) in Kassel, Germany, proves to be helpful to archaeologists and historians in understanding what a hemophilia warship was like.

Phoenician ship models also provide archaeologists information regarding the technical aspects of seafaring, and the cultural importance of seafaring for the ancient Phoenicians.

Ship models are helpful to archaeologists in that they allow archaeologists to make estimates regarding the size the vessel would be in real life. While this technique makes the assumption that artists scaled the models appropriately, it is useful to get some sense of how large these ships and boats may have been in real life. Archaeologists estimate the Phoenician vessel above (H-3134) to be about 6 meters long and the beam about 2 meters. Archaeologists are able to calculate these estimates of size by employing a series of assumptions about the distance between benches, the lateral distance between rowers, and a maximum draft of the vessel.

In his workshop, Ghassan keeps building ships out of scrap wood. He says: “I enjoy taking on any challenge, and I love working on miniatures of ships of all shapes and sizes. By the time I’m done with each model, I get the feeling that I don’t even want to give it to the client. It becomes part of my workshop’s identity.”

In the near future, Ghassan aims to prepare a big exhibition, launch a studio for people who love woodworking, and to collaborate with other creative artists.