Wayland is a project to define a protocol for a compositor to talk to its clients as well as a library implementation of the protocol. The compositor can be a standalone display server running on Linux kernel modesetting and evdev input devices, an X application, or a wayland client itself. The clients can be traditional applications, X servers (rootless or fullscreen) or other display servers.
The wayland protocol is essentially only about input handling and buffer management. The compositor receives input events and forwards them to the relevant client. The clients creates buffers and renders into them and notifies the compositor when it needs to redraw. The protocol also handles drag and drop, selections, window management and other interactions that must go through the compositor. However, the protocol does not handle rendering, which is one of the features that makes wayland so simple. All clients are expected to handle rendering themselves, typically through cairo or OpenGL.
Building the wayland libraries is fairly simple, aside from libffi, they don't have many dependencies:
$ git clone https://gitlab.freedesktop.org/wayland/wayland $ cd wayland $ meson build/ --prefix=PREFIX $ ninja -C build/ install
where PREFIX is where you want to install the libraries.
See https://wayland.freedesktop.org for documentation.