The catship of Åskar

My friend Åskar Lilja – cartoonist, artist, and musician – has been occupied with cat ships for some time. For a kids culture festival he just got the offer to make a full size cat ship, 1.8 x 2.4 metres. He asked me to help him – so I did the woodwork, while he painted.

the cat ship of åskar

The cat ship is an inversed ship’s cat – a ship for the cat, not a cat for the ship. I guess it has to do with perspective – every ship’s cat perceives the ship as a cat ship?

The tradition of bringing cats on sea journeys is old, known since ancient times. The function of the cats has been practical, economic, medical and religious. The cats kept the rats and mice away, which kept the food, the ropes and different kind of equipment in security. If the cargo was for example grain, the rats could cause economic damages.

As the rats spread deceases, the cats also kept the crew healthy. And in connection with the medical aspect, some ship’s cats could also serve as a kind totems – health protectors. There has been a certain magic connected to the polydactyl cats, a common mutation for ship’s cats. A polydactyl cat has more than 18 toes, and this is usually a result of inbreeding, which of course has been common among the isolated ship’s cats.

Some colonies of polydactyl cats are famous, one is the colony of the cat lover and writer Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway’s interest in the polydactyl cats is a part of the picture of Hemingway as a macho adventurer and masculine freedom seeker.

Well, as you can see, a cat ship is captured in the culture history, the tradition of ship’s cats – mutations, economy, health, magic, adventuring, and exploration.  

Please, visit Åskar's website!



This page was updated 2016-05-22 by Fredrik Sandblad.