- “I wanted to help draw guests into an immersive experience in which they can relax and feel the waves and textures of the island.” – Dough Johston – Coiled
Joali immersive art motif is not merely about immersing yourself amongst an expansive collection of art, but also becoming part of the art itself. Not just the piece of artwork, but the surroundings of paradise that frame it, imbue it and inspire it.
One of my favourite parts of an art museum is the seating. After a few hours of standing and soaking in the works of creativity, weary legs can do battle with energized eyes. I especially appreciate seats situated directly opposite particularly engaging works so I can stop and take the piece in a literally relaxed manner. Joali doesn’t just have seating to enjoy its works…the seating are the works. The best collection of artistic seating I’ve seen since the Copenhagen Design Museum. With the added distinction that you can actually sit in them (and are encouraged to do so as a part of the immersive process.
- “These works at JOALI are vessels that carry my past. They now breath the air of the MALDIVES and their surfaces will absorb the heat of this wonderful island. They will now listen to stories and befriend guests as they live and age.” – Reinaldo Senguino – Ceramic Mini Stools [BELOW]
- “Combining traditional technique with playful fabrication, my work embraces – and at the same time protests – functionalism…” – Chris Wolston – Terra Cotta Furniture [BOTTOM]
For low-miles “buy local” shopping, Faarufushi’s boutique is stocked with items almost entirely sourced from local artists. The miles-friendly range includes jewellery, fabrics, ceramics, and even Maldives themed phone covers. The shop also carried massage oil made from locally produced coconut oil (the same signature oil they use for the resort spa treatments). Many of the products are also featured in the rooms, spa and around the island like the Island Bazaar soft furnishings (see photo above) and the Island Apothecary hand cleanser.
Another impressive line of “local” products is one of the most extensive collections of books about the Maldives I have come across. Not just touristy coffee-table photo books, but histories and novels set in the archipelago. Beach reading about your beach!
“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” ― Pablo Picasso
Joali has created one of the most beautiful Maldivian properties.
Lori thinks it is the most splendid of the 100 we have now visited (I couldn’t make such an assertion as there are just too many apples-to-oranges aesthetics to compare). For example, Soneva uses the natural rough-hewn materials as its design palette. LUX North Male Atoll opts for striking contemporary hues to reflect the natural beauty. Joali has made itself a garden of artistry depicting inspired interpretations of this paradise.
In the ethereal segment of the Super-Premium 5-star, the typical differentiator is the “Wow-factor”. Sort of an X-Factor for guest experience that makes the property stand out in a clear and explicit way. It’s not just incrementally ratcheting up the Michelin stars of the food, or exclusivity of the wine cellar, or the thread count on the linen, but rather a step-change element which makes the whole place stand out from any other. For Joali it is their island-sized gallery of art, inside and outside, which provides a ubiquitous museum-quality exhibition of creative renditions of the tropical and indigenous themes that frame it:
- “You will be delighted when you realize that Joali is the first and only art-immersive hotel in the Maldives. The island is infused with interactive and experiential artistic pieces that you have never encountered before. The Art Map of the hotel pinpoint all the art and sculptural pieces you can discover. Some of these pieces are created in collaboration with artists and local arttisans in order to support the local community and to revive the artisanal works made in the Maldives. If you are a collector, some of these unique pieces will be available for purchase as well.”
One of my favourite kids activities in the Maldives are treasure hunts. Joali is like a treasure hunt of [artistic] gems for adults.
The collection includes specially commissioned works from the following internationally distinguished artists:
- Ardmore Ceremics (South Africa)
- Chris Wolston (USA)
- Doug Johnson (Canada)
- Teleksan Onar (Turkey)
- Studio Glithero (Engaldn)
- John Paul Phillip (USA)
- Misha Khan (USA)
- Porky Hefer (South Africa)
- Nacho Carbonell (Spain)
- Reinaldo Senguino (Venezuela)
- Seckin Pirim (Turkey)
- Soojin Kang (Korea)
- ·Zemer Peled (Isrea)
And the art is not just “of” the island, but “for” the island. Many of the pieces are immersive or experiential. You don’t just look at them…you use them. And in so doing you become a part of them. And one of the most prevalent themes in this languid paradise is relaxing. So many pieces are seats, settees and loungers (like John Paul Philippe’s chair shown below with Lori sitting on it). Perhaps none more so immersive than the flying Manta loungers.
The art is displayed across the property, but also each villa is packed with special pieces. And if you want to take an exquisite piece home, many are for sale at the resort boutique.
One of my favourite hangouts for my first stint as a travel writer and destination research in Togo, West Africa was the Café des Artes. The little tea shop displays and sold a variety of works from local artists including distinctive tapestries by an artist named Helga whose pieces are the pride of my African art collection. That local creativity set in a relaxing place to sip cold drinks and nibble treats all came flooding back to me when I stepped into Kandima’s Art Café. The joint sits adjacent to the resort’s art studio (so you can pop in for a coffee break while working on your Maldives masterpiece). The floor-to-ceiling windows look out over one of the rare inland lakes to be found on a resort island while also adds to the visual aesthetic. And if that’s not enough inspiration, the cafe serves cakes as artistic as the surroundings themselves.
Kandima’s “Kandiland” kids club features “Mini Picasso” sessions every Sunday and Wednesday from 2:00 – 3:00 pm at its Kula Art Studio led by none other than young Maldivian artist Aima Musko.
Aima Musko and I got way back. When I had just started Maldives Complete and she had just started her career in art. She’s helped me with the website (doing the new logo this past year) and I guess you could say that I helped her as her first customer. I knew that she had been a part of the featured artist series at Kandima, but I hadn’t realised that she had stayed on as an artist-in-residence at the resort until we visited there in July. She caught me up on all the latest and greatest in her artistic exploits as well as her exciting plans for the future. And here in a Maldives Complete exclusive, she is sharing a bit of her creative life on the island of Kandima…
- Which atoll are you from?
G.Dh. Fiyoari (Huvadhoo Atoll) but have always lived in Malè
- What art training have you had?
- Visual Arts in High School at Mahindra United World College of India and Foundation in Visual Communications at The One Academy in Malaysia.
- What is your big frustration as an artist?
- Other than getting easily frustrated as a perfectionist, being limited and restricted as to what can be exhibited here.
- What was the first painting you ever sold (tell us your side of the story)?
- While working at Transparency Maldives in 2011, I was asked to be the artist on a video that was celebrating women and had to make a painting for it. The video “Salhi Anhenun” (Cool Women) was uploaded to YouTube and after a few days I was contacted by the production team saying that they had someone interested in purchasing my painting. I met Bruce at a Cafe in Malè and since that day, I’m so happy to know that my painting has been hanging in his house all the way in UK for the past 7 years!
- What artists have influenced you?
- With Social Media like Instagram, I’m following various artists from all over the world with different mediums and techniques and have been continuously influenced by their styles. However I would say visiting the Art Exhibitions in Malè when I was younger and seeing the works of Artists from Maldives (Afu, Ika and Eagan to name a few) really left a lasting impression on me. Having creative friends and drawing together in school, working in different creative fields.. I’m constantly inspired and influenced.
- What is the biggest misconception about art that you face?
That good art is how realistic you can draw. Also that if you are an artist, you will be good in every aspect of art and the mediums.
- If you could buy one piece of art in the world (money is no object, it could be millions), which one would it be?
A painting by Ika of a Blue lady holding a cigarette that I saw in a house I visited with a friend about a decade ago. It just always stuck with me and I would love to own it for the impact it had on me. The second would be “The Kiss” by Gustavo Klimt.
You can check out her personal online gallery here.
Kandima supports the arts beyond their resort and in the community itself with their KUL Initiative:
- “The KULA art initiative was launched on the 5th of October 2017, with a vision to promote and nurture local artistic talent and creativity and essentially open up new horizons for the local art community in the Maldives…The KULA Initiative will also support local schools and artists with equipment, grants and master/classes… With its key component, The KULA Art Festival is the first of its kind annual event to be ever hosted in any resort in the island nation at such a large scale, turning the entire resort into the trendiest, most happening art centre in the Indian Ocean. Every year Kandima Maldives invites over 20 local artists specializing in various mediums including digital, coffee, acrylic, henna, spray paint and local crafts, to unleash their inner Picasso! KULA means ‘colours’ in Dhivehi, the Maldivian language.”
And Kandima is setting out to break the Bohemian “starving artist” caricature by putting money where its mouth is to support these artists with tangible benefits:
- “Kandima will give $1 per occupied room night to the KULA Fund and guests can also make their own donations. The KULA fund will also prosper and increase from the artists themselves. When a piece of art is sold, the artist will contribute a small percentage of the sale to the KULA fund to help it grow. The remainder goes personally to the artist, with no profit to Kandima. “
The artistic community in the Maldives has blossomed in recent years. Far beyond the Bob Ross-style painted coconut husks and tarted up imports from China, Maldives art has become gallery quality with a generation on the vanguard of the Maldivian art scene creating stunning depictions and interpretations of the paradise in which they live and in which the rest of the world is enthralled.
And the showcase for these works is the “Unveiling Visions” exhibits sponsored by Kandima which is taking place right now in the capital Male:
- ”Kandima Maldives is hosting host regular exhibitions and exciting art performances by local artists in the in-house Aroma Art Studio, which is set on the edge of a natural lake inside the island. The venue gives both guests and artists the inspiration and calm space they need to create their masterpieces. The exhibition will feature works by 50 Maldivian artists of ages 18-35; under 6 main categories – painting, drawing, calligraphy art, 3d installation, digital installation and sculpture. Launched in 2017, ‘Unveiling Visions’ will offer live art sessions, workshops, artist talks and fun-filled events for children. Unveiling Visions’ will offer live art sessions, workshops, artist talks and fun-filled events for children. Kandima Maldives will invite the top 15 artists to participate in its annual KULA Art Festival to be held on 28th December 2018. The festival is a perfect marketing platform for showcasing the Maldivian talent to the international audience and will be held for the second time since the resort opening in 2017. All of the inspiring art pieces created during the event will be available for purchase at the in-house KULA Art Studio at Kandima Maldives.”
While the Maldives are known for their low-rise terrain and thatched villas, some gems are indeed to be found in the high-rise buildings. Hotel Jen may be sequestered in the hubbub of Male, but it too is featuring some aquatic artistry at “An art exhibition renaissance for the Maldives”:
- “MAC curates and showcases three exhibitions on a monthly basis under an agreement it has with Le Cute and Hotel Jen… Avahteri has curated six exhibitions since its creation last year and the team wants to introduce Maldivian artists to a wider audience. ‘Even we have been pleasantly surprised by the number of Maldivian artists out there and by the diversity of their work,” says Aishath. The favoured mediums are changing. ‘Oil and acrylic paintings used to dominate the Maldivian art scene,’ she says. ‘Now we see a trend towards digital, mixed media artwork. Watercolour, charcoal and even cement and coffee are becoming popular.’ Social media has transformed the scene, helping local artists overcome the barrier of the country’s geographical dispersion. Around 85 percent of MAC’s discoveries have been through social media. Avahteri says it has revolutionised the way art is promoted and connected them to new local and foreign audiences.”
International Sculpture Day today. And new resort Sirru Fen Fushi is launching a world class sculpture exhibit with the most distinctively Maldivian twist – it is underwater.
- “The sculptural installation on Sirru Fen Fushi will offer visitors a unique, cultural eco-art attraction whilst creating the foundations of an artificial reef to enhance the underwater ecosystem. The centre piece will be the Coral Cube, the worlds first semi submerged art space, a portal to the underwater realm offering visitors ephemeral encounters with the natural beauty beneath the water’s surface, delivering an other worldly experience that illustrates the connectivity of man with nature, a hybrid organic form in harmony with its surroundings, a seamless link between the land and the ocean, combining two disparate wonders, one created by man and one designed by nature.”
This creative installation is another gratifying “Finally Seen” for me as I first suggested such an exhibition 4 years ago with Part 4 of my “Not Seen Yet” series (#7).
For a heartfelt gift, you can make your own. Especially at one of the many Christmas workshops that are traditional this time of year. My church’s annual workshop was where I learned half my craft skills (straw stars, clove oranges, yuletide wreaths). A number of resorts offer various artistic studios (pottery, painting, glass making), but Finolhu have one of the most comprehensive that I have seen with a wide variety of media. The also have a festive Christmas workshop schedule (including ceramics) for all those budding Santa’s elves who prefer the sunny tropics to the frozen Arctic.