Paintings by three Maldivians are among the diverse artworks displayed in the international art exhibition ‘OneArtOneEarth’ in East Africa.
The ongoing exhibition takes place at Diamonds La Gemma dell’Est, a five star resort on the western coast of Zanzibar, and showcases paintings of Maldivian artists Hassan Ziyad, Huda Aishath and Afzal Shaafiu Hassan (Afu).
Contemporary paintings by artists from Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and Sri Lanka and Zanzibar are among the other works displayed in the exhibition.
“It was a very good opportunity for us as normally we get to interact only with artists from the SAARC region, this has enabled us to see the works of some superb African artists, and exchange notes with them,” says Afu.
Huda and Afu were flown to Zanzibar along with other artists for the opening night of the exhibition in late July. Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Mariyam Zulfa along with her Zanzibar counterpart Minister Jihad Abdillah Hassan were chief guests at the event.
Most painters had integrated their cultures on the canvas of their paintings. Saada Juma Mussa, one of the leading henna painters in Zanzibar, showcased the art form on canvas. A former banker Adrian Nduma from Kenya plays with colour and abstract forms on his canvases, giving way to a magnificent painting of a lion.
Likewise the Maldivian artists incorporated aspects of the Maldives in their paintings. On the opening night itself one of Huda’s paintings were snapped up by a patron.
A former art teacher at Iskandar school, Huda says her artistic mother influenced her to start painting at a young age. “After experimenting with different techniques, I have found that bold strokes of oil and acrylic on canvas is something I never get bored of,” says Huda.
Those bold strokes created an alluring painting of a woman in a red Dhivehi libaas (traditional Maldivian dress) walking towards the sea, one of the first paintings to be sold.
Huda, Afu and Ziyad’s work, were chosen from among a dozen Maldivian artists, by Carlo Cipolini, the organizer of the event. Cipolini, a successful hotelier and owner of PlanHotels, is also an art aficionado and had held this exhibition to inaugurate his ambitious art project ‘The Indian Ocean Art Project’, which will bring together artists from in and around the Indian Ocean region.
“The aim of the project is to promote the teaching of art and to support artists from Indian Ocean Countries,” says Cipolini.
Afu says he feels the project will be very successful. “ The project will create a much needed platform for Maldivian artists to exhibit abroad.”
Akin to art movements in the past, the project aims to create an art movement in the Indian Ocean.
An Art Project
Spherique will promote different forms of art, including painting, design and sculpture. An annual international art exhibition will be held to showcase local artists and give them maximum exposure. Artists will be encouraged to share their experiences and travel to other countries to connect with different traditions.
“Artists of countries located in and around Indian Ocean will be able to compare notes with each other and give free reign to their talent,” says Cipolini.
Despite the influx of thousands of tourists annually to the Indian Ocean countries, the local art scene has not been able to fully utilise this platform to promote their art.
The Spherique project aims to change all that. “We would like to do an intelligent form of tourism that is culturally active and wide ranging. Countries that until now are known for their stunning beauty will unveil their artistic nature.”
International airlines, TV networks and companies alongside governmental authorities of the participating countries will partner in this project which will see the emergence of art galleries and businesses based around art in the participating countries.
Spherique will bring together countries as diverse as Seychelles, Myanmar, Comoros Islands, Mauritius, and Yemen with a variety of existing art forms.
Among them are South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya gifted with ancient legacies; Australia which is home to one of the world’s oldest continuing art tradition, aboriginal art; and India and Maldives with their burgeoning youth populations that produce experimental work, showcasing their cultures on canvas in distinctive ways.
“This will be the strength of the project, that the love of art will bring together people from different backgrounds, to form a melting pot of ideas, styles, concepts and culture” says Cipolini.
‘Spherique’ launched with much fanfare, heralds in a new era in art for the countries involved. This pan Indian Ocean project has all the potential to create an Indian Ocean art renaissance and give talented, hitherto unknown, artists a chance to become an Indian Ocean Matisse of tomorrow.