The Maldives features all sorts of pools across the resorts – infinity pools, glass bottom pools, jacuzzi pools, exercise pools…you name it. But Cora Cora ’s ancient bathing pools are the most intriguing of the lot. They were excavated carefully by the resort after some construction revealed their presence buried under years of sand piled on top of them:
- “The Maldivian name for bathing tanks is ‘vevu’. These tanks were discovered in 2011 in the thick wooded area of Maamagili revealing complex ancient structures far remove from the modern history of the Maldives. Mature trees, decayed roots and several tonned of mud and sand were methodically removed to unearth the structure beneath. These bathing tank, widespread throughout the Indian subcontinent were also commonly found in the Maldives until the 1940s.”
Many resorts offer a local island trip for a taste of Maldivian authentic culture and for an extra rich dose, Amilla Maldives features an excursion to neighbouring B. Kendhoo which not only boasts its own historical significance, but also a superb collection of historical artefacts and displays at its own museum:
- · “B. Kendhoo, the first island to welcome Islam to the Maldives. At this island you will see the first mosque to appear in Maldives as well as many other historical and ancestral works of art. Here you will also have the opportunity to witness the islands industry of making coir rope by hand. Your next stop will be B. Kudarikilu. This island is home to a national heritage museum, with countless historic pieces that truly showcase the history of the Maldives. The villagers here will offer you a fresh drinking coconut and traditional handmade snacks.”
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.
- “A Thousand Years of Receive Visitors – To Change and Be Changed: Maldivian history is defined by travel and transformation. The archipelago’s location has historically made it an easy discover for settlers from the subcontinent. Their arrival throughout the millennia alongside the bloom of trade across the Indian Ocean, resulted in interactions responsible for embedding the objects her in The Dutch Onion – and producing today’s diverse Maldivian communities.”
I already written the about museum on Maamagili, but the work continues under the new management of Cora Cora. The extensive collection of heritage is not just a showpiece assembling a few artifacts for the cultural curiosity of the guests, but instead an ongoing research, excavation, restoration project that continues to literally unearth treasures from the Maldives’ distant past.
The work is conducted at their Collection Centre where they continue to examine and catalogue pieces found on the island. During my visit, experts in ancient Chinese porcelain visiting to the resort with the primary objective of examining the trove of artifacts. The resort is still moving an ancient mosque uncovered during construction and is reconstructing it. In fact, a entirely new bathing tank found and excavated when the Cora Cora property was developed.
Stay tuned for upcoming posts on some of the intriguing details of this archaeological work.
If you want an overview of the Maldives destination with more an experience than a guide book, then Hard Rock and SAii Lagoon (actually sited at The Crossroads):
- “The Maldives have long been the crossroads of the world, where cultures meet, and where explorers, traders and pioneers from a myriad of different cultures have weighed anchor and helped to define the extraordinary culture and heritage of the islands. This unique attraction space, covering 500 square metres, uses stunning designs and interactive displays to explore the Maldives rich history, marine biodiversity and how local arts and crafts have shaped the islands’ unique cultural identity. This unforgettable educational experience works closely with the local community to promote their way of life and showcase the handicrafts of this remarkable island nation.”
The exhibit is a proper professional museum with slick presentation and exhibits of everything above and below the water. We received a tour of this interactive and artistic gallery by its manager Iyran. It is so packed with educational displays that even local Maldivian school children visit it.
From the extremes of primitive to avant garde, Maldivian artists also excel at classic art forms like oils and etchings. Not surprisingly, that home of the arts, Loama Maldives at Maamigili is an opportune place to sample these masterpieces…
“Loama Art Gallery is affiliated with the National Art Gallery, Maldives, and shows contemporary art from the Maldives. It offers a valuable platform for artists to exhibit and sell their work to a local and international audience. Contemporary art in Maldives has seen significant changes in themes and style over the last few decades. On the Path of a Dream brings together the work of contemporary artists whose diverse and surprising themes examine their innate senses borne while living in the Maldives. These artists have works that span decades and explores their subjects in-depth, visiting and revisiting ideas that form the identity of people inhabiting these islands. Loama Art Gallery aims to hold four exhibitions annually and the current exhibition at the overwater art gallery features five Maldivian artists who we are proud to present”
- Afzal Shafiu Hassan (directly below) – “although he works mostly with oil water colors. In 1994, at the age of 18, Afu began his professional career as a postages stamp designer at Maldives Post.”
- Eagan Badheeu (above) – “Impressionist landscapes and seascapes depicting the culture and lifestyle of the Maldives are his signature subjects…He earned initial recognition in the year 2000 when his works were exhibited in ‘Funoas’ (the beginning of southwest monsoon) Art exhibition held at Esjehi Gallery in Malé.”
- Aminath Hilmy (bottom) – “As a young girl her playground was sea hibiscus groves by the beach on Thinadhoo, Gaaf Dhaal Atoll. Her mother, Fathimath Hussain, was a Kasabu (embroidery) maker and a tailor. These skills were induced to young Aminath Hilmly and is reminiscent in her style of work…Aminath Hilmy has shown her work in Esjehi Gallery and National Art Gallery in Male.”
An this esteemed group is not alone so I have added the new category Tag “Maldivian Artist” to the blog today so you can peruse a virtual exhibition of local mastery.
A summary of the exhibit can be found here.
International Museum Day today is a chance to pop down to your local cultural curator. Among the Maldives resorts, the place to go is Loama Resort Maldives at Maamigili. While a number of resorts feature displays of artefacts and heritage, Maamagili has developed a sophisticated museum to showcase an unmatched collection of Maldives masterpieces…
“Loama Museum is the first and only Museum in a Hotel in Maldives licensed under the Government’s Department of Heritage. Our young museum collection spans from the Classical to British Colonial Period. Highlights include artefacts found on the island, items of trade and livelihood from the Early Modern or Colonial Period (1514-1828) and British Colonial Period ( 1828-1965). You will be wowed by an Ancient Bath from the Classical Period (500BCE-1153), Mausoleum foundations from the Medieval Islamic Period (1153-1514). The museum is located at the hotel lobby and extends to the Ancient Bath and a Traditional House which are located at the heritage site. Notable exhibits include Chinese porcelain that could have arrived on this island during the Indian Ocean trade between South East Asia and the Middle East. Other interesting artefacts from the collection, representative of the lifestyle and trade that survived inhabitants of these coral atolls for centuries in the middle of the Indian Ocean, include grain measures, coconut oil and lace making equipment.”
Many pieces in the museum come from Loama’s own archaeological work undertaken during the resort development. Anne Haour, an archaeologist from the Sainsbury Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in the UK, writes about this work in blog “Cross Roads of Empires”. She is doing a range of fascinating research studies about the Maldives and did a post on the Loama excavation work titled “Maamigili” (see below).