I written about the museum as Cora Cora (formerly Loama at Maamagili) before, but frankly when I visited it a year ago, I realised just how many distinctions it had. One of the highlights of their collection is an array of pottery which is not just distinctive in the Maldives, but distinctive worldwide. So much so that when we did our tour, we were joined by a Chinese couple who it turns out were ceramic experts and had specifically visited Cora Cora just to see the pottery exhibited there. They spent a long time looking at even the most unassuming shards in their workshop (see photo above) and commented on their significance. It turns out that centuries ago pottery was not just a decorative objet d’art, but an essential means of packing and shipping valuable commodities around the world. The pieces are not just lovely, but also inform critical research into ancient trading in the Indian Ocean.
And the distinctions at Cora Cora should keep I coming. I already have more to post but also the resort is continuing with ongoing excavation and archaeological research so the island just keeps revealing more and more treasures.
All the outdoor amenities in the Maldives are a true delight, but sometimes you do need a break from the tropical sun bearing down on you (especially for us anglo-complexioned). If you want to escape the brightness, but still like the idea of lounging in a hammock over the ocean, Cora Cora has installed them in their outdoor bathrooms. (top tip: the hammocks are also an excellent place to lay out wet swim suits and snorkeling gear to dry with less worry of a gust of wind blowing them into the sea which you have when setting them out on the deck).
Another variation of the wish tree is Cora Cora’s “Freedom Tree”. Not only do you write you wish to hang on a special walking tree for them to be lofted away by the Maldives ocean breezes, but you can also choose one of 4 colours each associated with one of the following sentiments:
If you want to make your own song or if the music of the ocean breeze in the palm trees and the gentle rhythm of seawater lapping the linen white sand inspires your compositional creativity, Cora Cora offers guitar lessons for their guests by resident Mani. In fact, even their staff have taken part including Sam featured here in this sample duet of some cord progressions.
Happy Easter! If you especially appreciate the traditional flowers of this holiday, then you will be particularly grateful for the floral greeting by Cora Cora’s own mini lei with a tropical flower on a palm leaf necklace to adorn your welcome.
Cora Cora’s “Freedom” theme extends even to its tasty delicacies where its frozen treats offer the option dairy free, sugar Free, and meat product free. All in an appetising range of flavours such as Pumpkin, Banana, Cocoa, Honey Ginger.
Cora Cora has turned the dining tables on the testosterone balance in the kitchen with Maldives’ only all-female staffed restaurant:
“Ginger Moon at Cora Cora Maldives provided a platform for Chef May to showcase her culinary abilities and following this, she sought to create an all-female team, the result is delicious Asian food, made with love and passion that soothes the soul…Chef May is empathetic and compassionate and…[is]changing the way the Maldivian hospitality industry operates. Male-dominated kitchens can be intimidating and aggressive, however, Ginger Moon operates in a calm and measured manner, and this creates a wonderfully positive environment to work in. ‘Cora Cora Maldives is leading the way for female chefs and women in the Maldivian hospitality overall, they are creating equality in what is traditionally considered a male-dominated sector. It is so exciting and rewarding to oversee an all-female restaurant team and I do hope other resorts follow in the footsteps of Cora Cora Maldives to create opportunities for women.’ Enthuses Chef May.”
We can speak from experience, the delightful experience of dining at Ginger Moon ourselves, that the result in terms of the service, ambience and cuisine is exquisite.
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.
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).