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:
- 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.
- 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.
One person’s trash is another’s person’s treasure, but Soneva Fushi’s “Maker 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.
Cora Cora has decorated its villas with a bit of local artistry with a unique painting on everyone depicting some activity at the resort. The portraits were all painted by Maldivian artist Shameen who is now in residence at the resort (stay tuned).
Another resort featuring Oevaali’s work is Coco Prive who have commissioned an exclusive silk-screened scarf for their guests. So exclusive, thst Oevaali won’t release any more than a peek of what the scarf’s artistic design is (see above).
Misha Kahn Underwater Coral Sculpture Garden from No LaB on Vimeo.
Joali not only features art immersion at its museum quality property, but it also features immersion art. Creative commissions are found not only in every nook and cranny of the island, but also deep under the water of the resort house reef. A number of resorts have installed underwater sculptures and other items of visual interest in the lagoon for snorkeling exploration, Joali is the first diver-oriented installation. Visitors can descend 12 metres to enjoy Misha Kahn’s subaquatic art:
- Misha Kahn couldn’t hold himself back to create his biggest scale work for Joali Maldives. He has worked in the island with his team and the locals to create the under the water coral sculpture garden using mosaic combinations of vibrant and pale colored tiles in order to reflect the coral bleaching occurring in the oceans.
- “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.