Best of the Maldives: Artist Couple in Residence – Cora Cora

Cora Cora - artist couple 1

A number of resorts now feature artists-in-residence, but Cora Cora is the first husband-wife team plying their creativity in family partnership. I had the fortune to meet Shameen during our recent visit (see photo below) and he told me about his intriguing artistic journey. He and his wife Sheenez shared their story with Maldives Complete:

Shameen…

  • How did you get started in art?
    I started when I was young. When I was 7 years, my mother asked if I could draw this photo. I started with pencil. At that time, there were no art classes in the school on the local island. In the school, I was sketching on the paper. People asked if I could paint things for them. When I got to Grade 10, I got to be pretty good. There was a competition for the whole Maldives. I had to go into schools. The competition had a theme of Human Rights so we had to to represent things like domestic violence, etc. I received 3rd place. Then I came to Male. I looked for anybody who taught art, but there was nobody. People suggested going abroad, but I didn’t have the money for that. I continued studying diligently and I went to school for business management. I told my mother that I wanted to have 6 months to do what I wanted. I was 17 years old at the time. I spent all my money (500 rufia) to buy art supplies. I didn’t have good Internet so I went to the library to study books about art. I started painting portraits. I got lots of business doing pencil sketches. I study from my heart, because I love to do it. When I was 18, I wanted to do an exhibition, but I didn’t have the money. But someone saw my work who had a boutique at the Male airport. He also had a school and I started teaching at the school. I could paint a painting in under 8 minutes (and people enjoyed watching me do it). I have painted more than 30,000 paintings. At one point, I had to stop painting and I started driving a taxi, when one of the people I drove was the Director of Cora Cora (Martin). During the ride, I showed my work on the phone and he asked me to paint the Cora Cora paintings
  • Who are some of your favorite artists and influences?
    My wife Sheeneez. She is a good observer so she guides me through making my work more perfect. She has lots of great ideas.
  • How did you meet?
    When I was 17 years, I went library to gather information for an art class. I saw her in the library and saw this beautiful girl. I fell in love at first sight. So I decided to draw her face and give it to her. On the pictures, I wrote my phone number and gave it to her. She messaged me 6 months later and we have been together ever since.
  • How do your styles differ?
    I am mastering in Water color, acrylic colour, Oil colour, Pencil color, Airbrush etc Last 10 years I was into all styles of the painting. I am more into realism style and she has a more modern style.
  • What is your aspiration?
    I’ve opened an art school in Male to teach art to students of all ages. My dream is to grow young artists and give them hope in the art world. We also help with displaying and even marketing their art.

Sheeneez…

  • How did you get started in art?
    Sometime after we met, Shameen started a studio downstairs from my father’s store. I started helping him with the studio doing backgrounds, and eventually he taught me more and more about painting.
  • Who are some of your favorite artists and influences?
    Shameen (obviously!). We teach together at the resort and in Male.  I also like Larssen who does lovely dolphins.
  • How did you meet?
    I had just moved to Male and went to the library with a friend. Within 5 minutes, this young man introduced himself to me.
  • Which is your favorite piece done by the Shameen?
    A modern painting with lots of colours which was his first painting. This one is very special.
  • Which is your favorite piece done by you?
    I never painted a person’s face with colour. So one day I decided to try it doing Bob Marley. I was very proud of it. I was surprised at how well it came out.

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Best of the Maldives: Waste Art – Soneva Fushi

Soneva Fushi - waste art

One person’s trash is another’s person’s treasure, but Soneva Fushi’sMaker Place” works to turn all their trash into everyone’s treasure:

  • “Soneva Fushi, the Maldives’ original barefoot luxury resort, has revealed a ground-breaking new addition to its portfolio of sustainable innovations. Makers’ Place is a fully carbon-neutral island studio that recycles waste plastic and aluminum into works of art, as well as practical objects and building materials. The Makers’ Place studio was built in collaboration with British artist Alexander James Hamilton, an advocate for sustainability and founder of the Distil Ennui Studio™, whose practice spans sculpture, painting, photography, film, lighting and installation.”

One of the advantages of their rustic chic aesthetic is that adapting bits and bobs of all types works in easily.

Best of the Maldives: Shoe Caddy – Ritz-Carlton Maldives

Ritz-Carlton Maldives - shoe caddy

For a destination with a “No Shoes, No News” vibe, a shoe caddy would seem a bit out of place, but actually I quite welcomed this distinctive amenity at Ritz Carlton Maldives. I wear shoes to transfer, and the heat means I sweat. Jetting off to such a swanky place as the Maldives (and the Ritz no less), I bring my nicer clothes. And the soft leather would lose shape and appearance if I didn’t put a shoe tree in them when I took them off. Not everyone wear flip flips and if you want to wear some nice shoes for your gourmet meal, you can keep your fine footwear in pristine shape.

Best of the Maldives: Wood Accessories – Amilla

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One of the first words people think of to describe the destination of the Maldives is “natural”. And (short of going full grass thatch hut), the most natural material is wood. I have a bit of a soft-spot for wood. Our house is filled with burr-wood furniture and natural grain finishes. I had a tradition of giving my godson a wood gift every Christmas. Amilla Maldives imbues this [natural] aesthetic with an extensive collection of wood items in each villa – desk accessories, cocktail utensils, room instructions. And to remember your trip, your own complementary luggage tags (see above). We’ve been using them for the past year and not only are they stylish, but they are also especially sturdy with their wire cable attachment.

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Best of the Maldives: Fashion Cabanas – One & Only Reethi Rah

One and Only Reethi Rah - missoni

One of the shorthand acid tests I use as an indicator of property quality is it beach chairs – 3 star properties have plastic beach/lounge chairs, 4 star have wooden ones, 5 star have wooden ones with cushions. And super premiums go that bit extra in comfort and distinction. With One & Only Reethi Rah, it is embellishing such beachware with Missoni’s style:

· “Missoni’s maximalist design has made it to the Maldives. The venerable Italian fashion house just gave the beach club at the One&Only Reethi Rah resort a colorful makeover. The reimagined alfresco space captures the essence of the tropical surroundings through a vibrant spectrum of blues, greens and whites. Naturally, you can expect plenty of Missoni’s signature patterns, too. Designed by Alberto Caliri, the creative director of Missoni’s home collection, the club is equipped with custom furniture showcasing the label’s recognizable motifs. Everything from the loungers and cabanas to the popsicle stand and DJ booth has been given the Missoni treatment. Guests can even make use of Missoni-designed paddleboards, bicycles and golf carts.”

I love the way the Missoni pattern evokes the tapestry of blues in the adjacent lagoon. If I win the lottery, I’ve always wanted a Missoni upholstered Roche Bobois ‘Composition’ sofa. Until then, at least I can get a bit of lounging on Missoni in the Maldives.

Best of the Maldives: Tented Beach Villa – Sirru Fen Fushi

Sirru Fen Fushi - tented villas 1

A couple of resorts (Madifushi, Hakura Huraa) have the “tented” style villas, but none so extensive nor beachfronty as Sirru Fen Fushi’s new Beach Tented Villa with Private Pool:

  • “Set on their own private pocket of beach, the new villas are designed provide a safari-style stay whilst mirroring the beauty and diversity of the island’s verdant flora and fauna. Natural wooden frames are swathed in white fabric, which can be rolled up completely to offer unparalleled views of the turquoise ocean beyond from floor-to-ceiling windows.”

There is something about the soft, flowing textures of the cloth crown that is so suited to the natural aesthetic of the Maldives especially the soothing undulation of the ocean right next to it.

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Best of the Maldives: Soft Sand – Maafushivaru

Maafushivaru - soft sand

I grew up spoiled by soft sand. Crane Beach in Ipswich, Massachusetts USA was renowned for its miles of flour soft white sand (kept clean and fine by an off-shore sand bar which acted like a filter of hard and soft debris). The brilliant white sand of the Maldives makes for great posts of the card and Instagram types. But on closer inspection with one’s sensitive piggy toes, one quickly realises that crushed coral (which is what the sand is comprised of) can be quite sharp (with plenty of broken coral bits washed up to really pierce your soles.

We have found a number of islands with soft sand (eg. Gili Lankanfushi, Safari Island, Mirihi), but we’ve not come across a property with plush icing sugar texture as Maafushivaru. I’d be wary of awarding such a kudo on just my experience, but I was convinced with veteran Maldives aficionado Francisco, who has visited over 40 resorts, made the same assertion.

Now Maafushivaru is in the diminutive island category which means they have less area to maintain. But maintain it they do. They had a team of a several groundskeepers raking the beach early every morning to sift out the shards and broken shells that had come in with the night time tide. Another aspect to tis distinction was the first impression made by the reception’s especially plush and floor like a rich, sand cashmere shag carpet whose softness you sink into.

Best of the Maldives: Wading Islands – Soneva Jani

Soneva Jani - islands

The first story of the Maldives which first captivated my interest in this aquatic paradise was a work colleague describing to me how they spotted an island neighbouring their resort and just *waded* over to it. They were staying at Rihiveli which has two islands you can wade to. Now Soneva Jani extends this ambulatory island hopping to three plot-of-sand destinations to Kudafushi, Budafushi and a further tiny one in the lagoon off its Crab Shack. The easiest way to stroll to that Robinson Caruso experience.

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