Much of the visual arts of the Maldives are stemmed from island life and similar to the arts of southern India and Sri Lanka as well. Woodcarving is one skill that is passed down from generation to generation. Their carving is highly intricate and takes years to learn.
They have also perfected the art of lacquerware. You’ll often find these decorative boxes and other ornamental objects for sale. This art came to the Maldives from China and is used as a way to protect the wood while using bold colors with gold. Only a couple of islands really practice this lost art these days.
Woven arts are typically made and sold by women. One popular item is colorful mats that are colored with a variety of dyed reeds. These mats are used for many purposes including their use as a prayer mat.
The Maldives are known for a traditional style of boat called the dhoni. Traditionally it was made of coconut wood, but nowadays, it tends to be made from a variety of woods that are shipped in. These types of boats showcase the level of intricate woodcarving that Maldavian carpenters are skilled at.
Most literature from the Maldives is written in the official language of Dhivehi. Because it’s an Islamic country, there does tend to be a significant amount of religious texts, and it’s been a focus since antiquity. One of the most famous religious writers is Husain Salaahuddheen who is most widely known for his work entitled “Siyarathunnabaviyyaa.” This work is often considered one of the most famous religious works of the modern period.
|Dhon Hiyala and Alifulhu|
Maldivian literature is dotted with folklore. These folklore stories have been passed down for generations and are often told to kids, serving a variety of purposes. There are myths of origin, how they landed in the Maldives Islands, and extinction, some of which has similarities to other nearby locations. There are also myths about good and evil spirits, myths about magic and sorcerers, and stories about the flora and fauna of the islands. One story about the characters of Dhon Hiyala and Alifulhu is almost reminiscent of the Romeo and Juliet story or the (Japanese) Tanabata story.
Poetry is also important in Maldivian literary culture. Bodufenvalhuge Sidi (intellectual, writer), Saikuraa Ibrahim Naeem (writer, government officer), and Ibrahim Shihab (poet, writer, essayist, statesman) are among the many writers and poets who have emerged onto the Maldivian literary scene.
A 2014 The Guardian article reported that the Maldivian government basically forces all writers to have their books reviewed by the government to check to see if it complies with their strict Islamic guidelines. Of course, fans of free speech vehemently oppose the measures, also saying that even the art forms had to comply. And this is just one reason why I choose to be non-religious.
Up next: music and dance