Maldivian artists exhibit in African ‘OneArtOneEarth’ exhibition

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.

Going international

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.


Review: Aioli Restaurant

Aioli is a French sauce, an emulsion of oil held together with other water based liquids to create a unique texture. The restaurant emulates its namesake the sauce in offering an emulsion of different cuisines, in a fine dining atmosphere.

The shade of the huge mango tree gives is pleasant as we enter Aioli at lunch time. Men occupy the two tables downstairs, chit-chatting about the latest stories around town. We look longingly at the dessert counter filled with colourful macarons, brownies and other tantalising sweet items as we head up the winding stairs.

A few tables at the balcony are occupied as despite the hot mid day sun, the place has a nice feel to it, the nearby tree keeps it cool. We opt for the glass- doored air-conditioned room with seating capacity for about 40 people. The menu offers diverse range of dishes, Mexican fajitas, mutton mysore, Thai items, a couple of vegetarian dishes, and top quality beef like the Black Angus rump steak, poultry, pasta and even a local speciality ‘addu kukulhu reha’, Addu style chicken curry.

Thai chicken skewers, with red cabbage
Thai chicken skewers, with red cabbage

Most surprising and intriguing is the dessert page, tempting varieties not available anywhere else in town – we almost skip the main course. Interestingly the menu has explanations of cooking terminology, helpful to those who are looking to experiment and expand their gastronomical repertoire.

The waitresses are friendly and smart, with black shirts and black skirts they blend right in with the concept of fine dining restaurants.

The drinks arrive fast, chilled water melon perfect for a hot afternoon, and home made lemonade; a combination of lemon sparkling water and ice, tipped a little heavily on the sparkling water side and lacking in zing. The papaya juice tasted smooth and decadently sweet.

The teriyaki beef-fry was well presented with a jasmine rice dome next to it. The sauce had an overly peppery taste to it and lacked the tangy-sweet and brackish flavor of a real teriyaki sauce, while the steamed rice is under seasoned and over cooked. The dish has ground to cover before it would live up to its name.

The lamb chops, served with grilled zucchini, potoato slices and red and yellow peppers had colour, but the presentation would have gone up a notch if the chops had been placed on top of the vegetables to add some dimension.

Fine dining Male' style
Fine dining Male' style

The orange sauce on the bottom added a bit of moisture to the utterly dry lamb chops, amusing given that the menu had a whole page explaining degrees of cooking meat. The shred of red cabbage sprinkled loosely on the plate added nothing to the dish and was a poor addition.

Thai chicken on skewers placed on top of steamed rice with more shreds of red cabbage came with a generous portion of pak choy. The chicken was tender and succulent, but the pak choy bathed in garlic was toothsome and a bit over cooked. The dish is a bit dry as there is little sauce to go with jasmine rice; this could have been a brilliant starter without the rice and pak choy.

Finally the moment we had been waiting for, the classic French dessert crème brulee arrived on the heels of Italian panna cotta.

It looks like the crème brulee needs more caramelising and more sugar. It was impossible to relive the moment in the famous scene of the movie My Best Friend’s Wedding, when Julia Robert’s character cracks open the caramelised crunchy sugar, exposing the creamy and smooth custard. Nevertheless it was full bodied and flavorsome, just lacking caramlisation, the essence of this dessert.

The panna cotta was presented neatly on a plate with drizzled chocolate sauce topped with a green cherry.

Tasty crème brulee
Tasty but not caramelised

The flavours were balanced in the cooked cream which is set with gelatin. The texture was a bit rubbery for a panna cotta; it should have just enough gelatin to hold its shape and should have wobbled a bit more on the plate.

Overall: bistro-style food with a fine-dining feel. The world’s many different tastes are served in this very promising restaurant, which holds a place among the best in town.

Aioli Restaurant

Food 7/10
Atmosphere 8/10
Value 6/10
Service 7/10
Total 7 /10

Fresh water melon juice – 25 Rf
Fresh Papaya Juice – 25 Rf
Home made lemonade – 40 Rf
Cajun Lamb chops – 150 Rf
Teriyaki beef stir-fry – 60 Rf
Thai chicken – 70 Rf
Crème Brulee – 55 Rf
Panna Cotta – 45 Rf

Aioli Restaurant is located beside Bank of Maldives Main Branch at Lotus Golhi. It is open from 9:30 am to midnight, on Fridays from 16:00 pm to midnight.

Naby Mariyam is a Le Cordon Bleu chef graduate, and works as a cookery trainer in Sydney, Australia.