National Museum will broaden exploration of Maldivian history

The New National Museum will give Maldivians the opportunity “to examine and reinterpret our culture and whole way of life”, claims Ahmed Naseer, the state minister for Tourism, Arts and Culture.

“It’s a great museum complex that includes Male’s best garden park. We now have a lot of space for people to express themselves in various ways, and where people can take refuge from this hectic life in Male. A place where they can relax, experience a bit of entertainment, and improve their historical and cultural knowledge.”

Built by the Chinese government as part of a UNESCO project planned for almost 20 years, the new museum will officially open on Independence Day, Monday 26 July.

For the opening, the new building facing Chandanee Magu will show exhibits mainly from the old museum at the nearby Sultan’s Palace, while the other new building across the park will feature an exhibition of 120 faiykolhu or Maldivian legal deeds and other official documents dating from the 1600s to the 1930s, according to Aminath Shareef, who has been cataloguing the faiykolhu.

They have never been exhibited before, and were selected from 800 documents discovered by chance in Male in December 2008. “We’ve chosen a variety of documents for Maldivians to see at the opening,” says Shareef. “They are written in Dives Akuru, Tana, English and Urdu scripts.”

“The first Maldivian museum was established in the early 1950s,” says Ahmed Naseer. “Our collection has moved four times. At last it has found a permanent home. We will also try to acquire other private collections that people have in their homes. These people are waiting for a secure place to exhibit their precious possessions. We will be inviting them to display their collections, or lease items to the museum. We may even buy their collections once we have the legal framework in place. So it’s a very exciting future.

“We can finally address many issues that have lain dormant in our society. Historians use old books and other things to interpret history, but in our case there are very few books and the questions about where Maldivians came from and who we were before and after we converted to Islam – these questions have remained unexplored. Through the museum we can start examining and interpreting periods of our history, and this will give us a chance to find some answers.”

“Many Maldivians are aware of the fascinating work done on coral stone at the old Friday mosque. We are in the process of applying to UNESCO to have the mosque placed on the World Heritage list. In the Maldives, coral stone sculpture is a common factor throughout the atolls and some experts claim Maldivian coral stone work is the best in the world. Of course that is debatable, but through the museum we can examine these issues, and assess our heritage.

“There is a lot of interest among our young people and students. They are all looking forward to the opening. It’s something good that’s happening. We plan to integrate the museum with the education system. At the moment the heritage department is involved in setting up administration for training staff, but we will also be inviting lecturers to utilise the museum space.”

Inside the museum

“Now the building has been finished, and the President and his cabinet decided we should open it on Independence Day,” explains Mamduh Waheed, deputy minister for Tourism, Arts and Culture, “we have to show our appreciation to the Chinese government and assure them that we will utilise the facilities they have so kindly provided.

“Within the ministry and the new heritage department we don’t have the capacity to handle the opening. Former members of the National Centre of Linguistics and History (which has now been disbanded) are helping, but even then we needed much more assistance, so the cabinet decided to put together a taskforce.”

Many Male organisations and government departments are taking part in the effort to have the museum ready for the official opening, according to taskforce co-ordinator Aminath Athifa, “Dhiraagu are working on the PA system, the Male’ Municipality and STELCO are helping, and the police are providing security as well as the MNDF who are also handling the physical transfers and exhibit arrangements. Every movement of our collection is photographed and documented.”

Regarding the museum’s long-term plans, Ahmed Naseer says, “We’ll be exploring non-academic methods of creating interest. In the future, there’ll be exhibitions to attract people who would not normally think a museum is a place for them. A lot of our old craft skills are dying away and they need to be revived. For example, the mat weaving that still occurs in Gaadhoo on Huvadhu atoll, and the lacquerware from Thulhaadhoo in Baa atoll. We will have exhibitions that include the craftspeople, and they can show others how mats and lacquerware are made. In Male we have a very fast pace of life and young people are often quite unaware of these skills. The people from the islands can show us how these beautiful things are created and it will inspire a resurgence in our craft skills and ability to earn more tourism income.”

The training of staff is the biggest challenge facing the museum’s administrators, Naseer explains. “We expect to receive assistance from other countries who are experienced in museum management, and hope to send our young people to neighbouring countries to get training in preservation methods.

“Invitations will be sent to foreign students to come and work as interns with local people; for example through the Heritage Centre in Singapore. We are planning to have exchange programs enabling our people to work overseas in other museums. This will help alleviate our staff shortages. A lot of people are looking forward to this; the level of expectation is high.

Some of the new exhibits

“From the beginning of the consultative process almost two decades ago, an important issue was the provision of a human resource program to train people to run the museum and maintain the collection. But the human resource requirements were not attended to; all the focus was on getting these huge buildings erected. It’s a pity that UNESCO didn’t insist on the training part of the project.

“Maldivians are very interested to learn about their heritage,” Naseer believes. “Most of it is not known. They will be able to question things for the first time. They were used to just obeying and accepting what they were told; not using their own minds. This is an opportunity for Maldivians to improve their knowledge of their past. They don’t have to be afraid to ask questions.

“A museum can be an exciting place that inspires people and we will develop the sort of trained staff the Maldivian people need to help them understand their heritage.”

Sultan’s Park and the Eden Project
An integral part of the new museum is the development of Sultan’s Park, situated between the two museum buildings, into a unique Maldivian botanical garden.

“Maldives is Eden’s latest project area,” says the organisation’s English curator, Ian Martin. “At the moment we are trying to renovate this very attractive garden and turn it into something with a big emphasis on the plants of the Maldives – how people think about them, how they use them. These plants can be used for fruit and vegetables, but there can also be plants for their spiritual satisfaction, appreciated for their beauty.

“Over the next year or so, we’ll really get involved with the transformation of a rather traditional ornamental garden into something very special for Maldivians. It will become a place where Maldivians can understand themselves and what their future could be – giving them ideas about how they can progress towards a more sustainable economy that isn’t just relying on fish and tourism.”

The museum will help promote research into Maldivian culture

Ian Martin worked as a horticulturalist in tropical countries for 23 years before joining the Eden Project fourteen years ago. “My links abroad became useful to promote Eden’s philosophy of improving the understanding and care of plants for crops and conservation around the world,” he says.

“Helping in the initial landscaping work are labourers and other staff from the city’s nursery and the Male Municipality, and of course the MNDF personnel who have been really great and very easy men to work with.”

“The second phase of our work will be turning Sultan’s Park into a specialised garden – the only place in the world where you will find this particular collection of plants with these stories,” Martin explains. “We want to produce something distinct for the Maldives – something beyond being a nice garden with pleasant shade. Maldivians will find plants that have played a key role in their cultural identity. It will become a place for children to understand what it means to be a Maldivian. It can’t be boring, it has to be entertaining, and something they won’t be able to find anywhere else.”


35 thoughts on “National Museum will broaden exploration of Maldivian history”

  1. Here's hoping that the lovely Museum would help in getting more average Dhivehin to learn more about their roots again.

    This is especially necessary in an age where so many Maldivians are confused about their identity going so far as to adopt completely alien (Arab, Afghan/Pashtun, western) cultural practices as its own.

  2. Ian Martin with 23 years as a horticulturalist here in Maldives to tell us how to:

    “... get involved with the transformation of a rather traditional ornamental garden into something very special for Maldivians. It will become a place where Maldivians can understand themselves and what their future could be – giving them ideas about how they can progress towards a more sustainable economy.."

    Another man here to tell us what SPECIAL means for us.

    I hope it doesn't turn special for him or the Eden project.

    These consultants are here to rob us more than anything else.

  3. I hope that someday they will have a science wing for kids. That was always my favorite part of going to museum as a child.

  4. This is excellent news. I hope there will be round the clock security and safe guarding system for all those historically valuable items in the building.

  5. @ Kaheenu

    These specialists are robbing you of your ignorance. Life is tough.

  6. @kaheenu - when Bangladeshis provide the labour to construct our buildings, when Indians and Sri Lankans teach our school children, why should Ian Martin from England come and 'help' us re- engage with our very own park. I dont see any Maldivians willingly doing it. Do you? Why dont you go down there and get involved.

  7. Hey Impressed' and 'Loamaafaanu'!

    Do you think expatriate consultants come here and work free for us?

    Check out how much money goes into these consultancies.

    Expatriate consultants are paid their ticket, Perdiem, their salary and everything from our money. And the rates are at least 5 times more than what you pay for a local consultant who have the similar knowledge./skill/experience.

    The exorbitant amount of money paid to expatriate consultants are from own earnings or from the funds we borrow or from what we receive as aid.

    Whichever way, the money is spent from our money.

    And you know what? Most of the consultants who come here know nothing. They only carry a name.

    They are people who have networks - connections with people in the organizations/areas they work for.

    When the consultant come to Maldives the Maldivians will gather around him/her and do all the work.

    When the job gets done the consultant flies away with the knowledge gathered to use it in the next country.

    They are the fleas in search of elephants.

    Yes, you won't see Maldivian willing to do such work.


    Because no matter how knowledgeable or experienced a local consultant is, they are paid 5 times less than an expatriate consultant.

    And a local consultant sadly cannot expect the people around him/her to do the work for him/her.

    BTW, are you getting some commission?

  8. The only people who will take refuge from the park will be Bangladeshis. They don't leave any green space in the capital city for a Maldivian or a Maldivian child to relax.

  9. I hope the Museum would be more interesting now to see, unlike the previous boring old one. One thing Im worried about though is, the entrance fee! I doubt it would be less as this government does nothing for free and have always plans to rob the public as much as they can.

  10. @yaamyn

    "Here’s hoping that the lovely Museum would help in getting more average Dhivehin to learn more about their ROOTS AGAIN."

    I hope it's ONLY learning about their roots and not LEANING towards it, you mean.

  11. ibrahim yasir:

    And that's their fault how?

    I hope they actually maintain the place this time around...

  12. I am happy that the museum is getting a more appropriate venue and the exhibits a new home. I hope that the new museum would be a place to learn about our ancestors and their way of life and for us to learn about who we are. I also hope that this new museum would not be stagnant like the previous one. And the building looks beautiful from outside. I hope it will be as beautiful inside.

  13. Good news! But my only worry is supari packets and other litter, including plastic bags left by those who would enjoy the park space. As it is, the space is not well maintained and many are not in the habit of using dust bins!!

  14. mahusaruge maidhaan as proposed by eden project.
    top down experts imposing on the ignorant maldivians. saudis vs. yahudis.

  15. Wonderful news! Surely a start of a new era. We need to learn about our multi ethnic roots to combat the rampant xenophobia that can be found. Curiosity, questioning and well grounded research is needed to compete with what is being fed to us by the government previously and now the crazy Mullas. Good luck to the Museum team. May this project be a bastion of enlightenment.

  16. heck on Sun, 25th Jul 2010 1:27 AM
    "I hope it’s ONLY learning about their roots and not LEANING towards it, you mean."

    Actually, that's exactly what I'm hoping for.

    I do not have any hopes from guileless Arab-worshippers like you, but I do sincerely harbor the wish that more Maldivians would reconnect with their true Dhivehi identity instead of shamelessly aping (often backward and bronze age) foreign cultural practices.

  17. this is good news. just hoping there will be our true history to see there, not what some one want to show you,
    and hope there would be science museums or at least a wing..

    for those who are talking abt expats being paid or occupying our space, i think you should be ashamed.. today maldives majors a drug addict or religious addict or politics addict youth and very few creative and working force.. most of the work is done by expat here and they are being paid through tourism money we get from foreigners. the minute tourism income or money is taken out of the picture, we are doomed...

  18. @yaamyn on Sun, 25th Jul 2010 2:40 PM
    You are just hopeless...Aren't you shamelessly aping backward dark ages of so called modernized free thinkers.

    What is free in your thinking? Nothing? You have a view that Arabs are backward. You have a view you are superior to anyone who doesn't agree with your points. You have a view that Dhivehin has an original identity while the truth is much different from that.You have a view that even contradicts your own reasoning. What is so free and original in that? NOTHING 😉

    You ,"my man", is a simple and a tiny little piece of brain just like most of the humans. Nothing more. 😉

    Well, before you reply to this with your "beautiful" words (more often belittling all opposite remarks) and your twisted ideology, let me introduce to you to a simple factual theory:"To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction"

    Now rant as you wish... 😉 I'll be watching you enthusiastically and willingly for your "backward ideologies" Did it ring a bell? 😉

    "btw, sorry if I have hurt your feelings, but you asked for it and I have no choice but to let you know the truth. I just simply can't lie to make you happy. That would be deceiving, isn't it?"

    Dhivehin are generally good people from their origin and they are all very humble and decent in their own way. Friendly and understanding. Hardworking and respectful. These are some good qualities of "Dhivehin".

    May Dhivehin be united for the good of this nation. May GOD bless us all.

  19. @yaamyn

    You surprise me on how much you think about Arabs. Much like Paro keeps count of seconds and minutes in Devdas!

    Do you think about Arabs each second of your life?

  20. "Aren’t you shamelessly aping backward dark ages of so called modernized free thinkers."

    Only you would equate light with darkness.

    How do you get off by comparing the dark ages with thinkers?

    Have you even given a moment of thought before bursting out with that statement?

    Yes. I do have a 'view' that Arabs are backward in very crucial aspects that set apart modern humans from bronze age people - namely, science, enlightenment, democracy, human rights..

    I could go on, but seeing as how plain facts have no bearing on your 'opinion', I shall save myself the trouble.

    Finally, you seem to be very embarrassed about your Dhivehi identity for some reason (I suspect it has to do with the Arab subservience that many of your ilk possess - but of course, I could be wrong)

    Dhivehin have as much as original identity as any other culture in existence.

    We have been living in these islands for thousands of years, in which time we have formed a very distinct identity from our mainland ancestors.

    You were born a dhivehi, born of dhivehi parents, you think in dhivehi, your cultural heritage is dhivehi, and it is dhivehi raajje that gives you a passport and an identity.

    You can try and disown all this - but you could just as easily disown your mother. You'll simply be fooling yourself.

    I have seen no end of times, especially during Friday Prayers, maldivians competing to outdo each other in their cultural bastardy.

    Most wear Afghan and Pashtun garb with turbans (I didn't know the Prophet was a pathan. Correct me if I'm wrong)

    There are others who wear the flowing white Arab robes - and more distressingly, make their young, dhivehi children wear these alien outfits.

    You may wholeheartedly approve of this shameless act of cultural subservience. And you're welcome to do so.

    As another citizen just like you, I reserve the right to have my own opinion , as well as air my opinion when I please to do so.

    Lastly, I do not consider myself 'superior' to people who I disagree with.

    My lack of a paranoid, 'the WEST IS AFTER ME!' victim attitude, or an inferiority complex to Arabs/Afghans may be construed as 'superiority' by you. But that's fine.

    I do not apologize for my national pride or Dhivehi identity.

    I have some respect for people who can defend their viewpoints with honest conviction instead of pointless, ad-hominem attacks

    (I can even state this of a blogger Ibn Khattab of Sharia Maldives blog, whom I have engaged with during my former blogging days.

    He's a jehadi terror monger, but proud of it, intellectually honest about this view and defends it based on his convictions. And I admire this as much as I completely, and vehemently disagree with him)

    On the other hand, I have very little respect or patience for some commentators on this thread whose only defense of their pandering to arabs/afghans is to randomly spew accusations.

  21. @yaamyn

    Wrong answer!

    From your gibberish I can decipher your answer to my question "Do you think about Arabs each second of your life?" is somewhat like Paro's lover Deva's: "Jab jab mein nei saans lee hai, thab thab"

    "Whenever I take a breath I am reminded of you (ARABS!)"

  22. @yaamyn

    "My lack of a paranoid, ‘the WEST IS AFTER ME!"

    Your lack of paranoid? Looks like the the Arabs are after you!

  23. @yaamyn on Mon, 26th Jul 2010 1:20 PM

    😉 hehehe, sorry my dear yaamyn , read your own comment just once more and you'll realize how true I am in my last comment reply to you... thanks bro! you did us all a huge favor.

  24. @yaamyn

    This love of CULTURE is the new found excuse of Islam-haters to erase Islam from Maldives.

    Why take Maldives back to nine centuries? Because you know Islam wont be there, then!

    In this "love" I can see your "hate" for Islam.

    You can't carry your culture and your riches to your grave. Only your deeds count and if they are only efforts to kill Islam then what a real waste!

  25. @@yaamyn on Mon, 26th Jul 2010 1:20 PM
    Btw Do you wear "Mundu"/"Feyli" and "hudhu fosha" on your head and bear chested all the time? I don't think so... 😉
    Common!boy.. you are talking nonsense.get real!

  26. Your contempt for your identity does nothing to change it.

    No matter how you adorn yourself in white robes, or Pashtun clothes, or apply a generous smattering of arabic phrases in your conversation - you will never be mistaken for an Arab anywhere in Arabia.

    You will still remain the brown descendant of the Mundu/Feyli wearing Dhivehin of Dhivehi Raajje.


    Like I have said before, I have had more fruitful discussions with lamp posts than I can ever hope to have with you.

  27. There appear to be a clueless few who think Islam was invented in the last 5 years inside the good offices of the Adhaalath Party.

    That is, however, not the case as any Dhivehi citizen can attest.

    Islam has been seamlessly fused into the Dhivehi culture for over 9 centuries.

    I still remember a time when as a kid, I would sit with my grandmother on the porch, at dusk around the prayer time, reciting the quran.

    And every other household with kids, in the entire island, would do the same.

    This was long before the hellfire and brimstone speeches of the fearful, threatening, rigid and paranoid version of "Islam" arrived from Arabia.

    Just mentioning.

  28. @yaamyn

    "Like I have said before, I have had more fruitful discussions with lamp posts.."

    So, like a good boy your ARE doing that more often! Huh!

    Guraidhoo seems to be fully occupied for the time being.

    In the meantime you keep doing that, okay?

  29. @yaamyn

    "This was long before the hellfire and brimstone speeches of the fearful, threatening, rigid and paranoid version of “Islam” arrived from Arabia."

    Yes. Long before that rigid VERSION of Islam came, Ibn Batuta saw a very LIGHT version of Islam in Maldives. It was so light WOMEN did not care to cover their ASSETS as they went about in full swing!

    I do hope it's not THAT light around your place lest you reach out too often to keep both your hands over-worked with pressing exercises?


Comments are closed.