From Thailand: Intricately carved fruits and vegetables fit for a queen

Carving intricate patterns into fruits and vegetables is a Thai tradition that has been traced back to the country's Sukhothai dynasty, in the 14th century, when the skill was taught to women in the royal palace. The tradition is slowly dying out in Thailand, but a handful of artists are determined to keep the art form alive.

A huge fruit and vegetable carving competition was held in Bangkok on Friday (4 August) in honour of Queen Sirikit, who turns 85 on 12 August. More than 20 teams carved intricate floral and animal designs into a range of fruits and vegetables including papaya and pumpkins. Watermelons are especially popular because of their intense colour and gradations of shade.

A carved watermelon is displayed during a fruit and vegetable carving competition in BangkokRoberto Schemidt/AFP
A carved watermelon is displayed during a fruit and vegetable carving competition in BangkokRoberto Schemidt/AFP
Thai children carve elaborate designs into fruit and vegetablesRoberto Schemidt/AFP
A carved watermelon is displayed during a fruit and vegetable carving competition in BangkokRoberto Schemidt/AFP
A woman carves floral patterns into a papaya during a fruit and vegetable carving competition in BangkokRoberto Schemidt/AFP
A carved papaya is displayed during a fruit and vegetable carving competition in BangkokRoberto Schemidt/AFP
Displays are adorned with images of Thai Queen Sirikit, during a fruit and vegetable carving competition in BangkokRoberto Schemidt/AFP
A carved watermelon is displayed during a fruit and vegetable carving competition in BangkokRoberto Schemidt/AFP
A carved watermelon is displayed during a fruit and vegetable carving competition in BangkokRoberto Schemidt/AFP
A Thai woman carves a vegetable into the form of a roseRoberto Schmidt/AFP
A carved pumpkin is displayed during a fruit and vegetable carving competition in BangkokRoberto Schemidt/AFP
A man adds a pumpkin carved in the shape of a fish to an elaborate displayRoberto Schemidt/AFP
A Thai boy carves floral patterns into a watermelonRoberto Schemidt/AFP
A Thai girl carves floral patterns into a melonRoberto Schemidt/AFP
A carved watermelon is displayed during a fruit and vegetable carving competition in BangkokRoberto Schemidt/AFP
A carved watermelon is displayed during a fruit and vegetable carving competition in BangkokRoberto Schemidt/AFP
Two Buddhist monks look at an elaborate display of carved fruits and vegetablesRoberto Schemidt/AFP
A painting depicting Thailand's Queen Sirikit adorns an elaborate fruit and vegetable decoration during a fruit and vegetable carving competition in BangkokRoberto Schemidt/AFP
An elaborate display of carved fruits and vegetables is displayed during a fruit and vegetable carving competition in BangkokRoberto Schemidt/AFP
An exhausted artists sleeps on a chair as others put together elaborate fruit and vegetable displaysRoberto Schemidt/AFP

Fruit carving is still popular as an offering in temples or as a decoration for weddings. Fine arts students can still choose to learn it at university, as they would take painting lessons. But the tradition is fading away. "Not so many young people are interested in it or the ones who studied it in art schools cannot make a living out of it," Manirat Svastiwat na Ayutthaya, food carving expert told AFP.

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