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The Edition's Portrait of Nazimbe'

In his exhibition titled "Watercolor Journals of Nazimbe'" displayed at the National Art Gallery, this veteran painter depicts a nostalgic world lost in an ancient time.

Aishath Shuba Solih
26 January 2024, MVT 09:09
Nazim Ahmed (Nazimbe) -- Photo: Nishan Ali / Mihaaru
Aishath Shuba Solih
26 January 2024, MVT 09:09

Journaling the voyages of his lifetime's experiences inside and outside the isles, Nazim Ahmed, affectionately known as Nazimbe', chronicles the stories inside his memories of an earlier time veiled within history. Coloring his memories of bygone days and the greyscale archives of a local narrative, Nazimbe, 62 weaves five segments displaying 105 paintings to portray the simpler times of his youth.

Dabbling with art since a young age, his artistic voyage began during his school years with his Sri Lankan art teacher, Mr. Swamipille’.

“Back then, the government was very invested in creative education and art. They had hired extremely qualified teachers from overseas who laid a very sturdy foundation that built my passion for art. These teachers were exemplary with their technique, closely overseeing the most [seemingly] trivial details in a student’s work, offering guidance to obtain perfection.”

Following his art education, Nazimbe' surfed the available techniques on books and later, the internet, to advance his craft. A mesmerized boy with a bursting desire to learn, he began engraving the delicate movement and complex advice of experts into each brushstroke and color techniques. He had begun his art journey in school with watercolor prior to his discovery of the interesting medium of oil which he has since affiliated himself with to stimulate his self-bestowed knowledge in painting and art discovery.

This nautical man who had once conquered his resident seas had however, revitalized the medium of watercolor much later into his life. Finishing his last oil painting in 1998, Nazimbe' disciplined himself on the challenging art of watercolor and, much like the seas, conquered this medium through many hours in the stillness of night.

The early 1990s found Nazimbe' capturing the delicate essence of water ratio in color mixing and the effect of a fluctuating brushstroke strength, which he would later come to realize is his greatest comfort in coloring his illustrations. Glimpsing an exceptional watercolor palette during a visit to a local island that evoked a sudden desire to explore this medium, Nazimbe' reclaimed his love for the delicate techniques that need to be applied with each brushstroke, although oil remains his most fluent medium.

A painting under the segment titled "Once Upon a Time in Male'" -- Photo: Nishan Ali / Mihaaru

“Water plays the main role in water color paintings, not even the painter. My paintings aren’t good because of me, it’s the water that does the magic. The timing of a wet brush on canvas and the speed it dries. The distribution of water and mixing techniques. Due to the water’s unpredictability, no two paintings can look alike and no two trees colored the exact same way will mirror each other. One of the most difficult things about watercolor is mixing the perfect shade most suitable for a subject’s layer. Noticing the many contrasting colors of a single subject and mixing the water and shades of colors to gather the intended finish are all very important for an effortless final product. Understanding color theory is what gives confidence to a painter. Veterans with a trained eye will understand that not just any color will suffice.”

Nazimbe' finds the dying practice of watercolor in Maldives to be very disheartening. He notes that young artists tend to prefer the medium of acrylic paint or digital art as opposed to challenging mediums such as oil and watercolor and encourages more youth to dabble and experiment with water color, trusting they would find as much solace and beauty in the medium as he has.

Acknowledging that the majority of the artists in Maldivian are self-taught, he advises them to firmly acquaint themselves in the fundamental core basics of art before they begin more complex art techniques to acquire the best results.

Nazimbe' shared his experience of sourcing watercolor palettes abroad due the unavailability of color varieties within bookstores in Maldives. “Just one visit will make the dying practice painfully evident,” he says. A retired surfer and fisherman, Nazimbe' has traveled to the all the isles in this small archipelago. He fondly recalls the trip that sold his heart to the seas; a humble passage atop a 'Dhoni' ( a traditional Maldivian sea vessel), with four young companions, navigating the [then] unknown waters using a small nautical chart book. As evident in his art, he has since then lodged himself onto the waters, mastering his second home through persistent cruises both overseas and underwater.

In the long years of his painting journey, Nazimbe has familiarized himself in the artwork of many subject matters. The one theme that regulates a habitual illustration on his canvases, however, is the art of a time-worn home – the olden Maldives of his boyhood. Old settlements and their seas. Sea-faring, island dwellers, much like Nazimbe. His love for his home city, ancient and new is the core of his raw inspiration.

He reveals additional inspirations from local artists that enchanted him, such as Ahmed Abbas, his favorite artist who Nazimbe' accredits as a rare entity flawlessly fluent in all mediums of art, and Abdul Saththar Yoosuf, who helped commence his exhibition.

A painting under the segment titled "Travel Stories'" -- Photo: Nishan Ali / Mihaaru

Inside his canvases, we drift into a nostalgic time when children and women run into the setting sun to watch fathers sail home from fishing excursions. We see the caustic network on an anchored boat’s freeboard and the ancient dwellings of local plantations. Extinct donkey husbandries and stone-wall prison fronts. Bewitched seabirds flocking to a boat lured by the smell of fish and a “Dhaani” collecting water from a cement stone well.

Nazimbe evokes wistful longing to a tranquil land and sentimental waters ripe with foreign localism. He shows us the detailed characteristic of our ancestry and nation in each of the paintings displayed in his first ever exhibition.

With this exhibition, Nazimbe had flawlessly conveyed his memories of a once serene home in Male’ alongside the brimming liveliness of local island folk to the public, achieving his purpose for the exhibition. His paintings garnered a level of public recognition that surprised Nazimbe himself, he had enthralled the youth with visual stories about their ancestry and captivated adults and elderly with nostalgia of a treasured childhood. His canvases were as visionary as the inspirations behind them.

Although Nazimbe’ s first and only exhibition concluded [as the largest success of his art career] on 25th January, this watercolor [and oil] professional intends to paint and display more art that tells a different version of his favorite story; his home country, Maldives.


Nazimbe had easily colored all shades of his feelings in a moment of inspiration to each canvas in this exhibition with soft and careful smears of his watercolor brush.

Watercolor Journals of Nazimbe/ National Art Gallery entrance portrait -- -- Photo: Nishan Ali / Mihaaru

Life at work is one of the most jostling segments displayed in the exhibition. Filled with commodity, community and tumult, Nazimbe' captures the spirit of Maldivians workers in these canvases that respectfully color labor on these isles. From sail vessels boarding fishermen on their scorching wooden decks to waste collectors in fluorescent vests gripping steel brooms in the bronze street light, Nazimbe splashes the stills of seemingly insignificant details to capture the veiled pith of two decades in the history and modernity of Maldivian culture.

In the water color portraits of Once Upon a Time in Male’, he generously paints the memories of his childhood. Presenting a home lost in time, Nazimbe submits to a tender nostalgia of rural island life that astounds the youth of today. He shows the northern port movements as an elevated coastline trickled with silver sea stones over burning white sand. He shows roofs made of dried palm leaves and walls of wooden planks. A green land puddled by a departed storm and shores occupied with unfinished ships hulls. Portraying a blockhouse with fortified doors and stone wells at the coast of the island, he had truly brought to life the journals of his youth.

In the Travel Stories of his island visits, Nazimbe shows extinct cultures, plantations and green lands. He colors an emotional scene of a family running to fetch their father sailing home, and a small settlement on a recursive island inside a lake concealing its massive taro plantation on the island of Fuvahmulah. Silhouettes of families against bronze skies and a sun setting in a million shades of orange at the distant horizon.

The segment of Lights and Reflections displays an array of Nazimbe’s exemplar mastery in the craft of watercolor with the nostalgic allure in these stills. He paints a vivid picture displaying majestic reflections on bodies of water and crystalline seas illuminated under the sun. Each of his brushstroke served a purpose in imposing the beauty of the grand nature depicted, each color and each shade stirring each visual in the direction of a spectacle.

Using his wit and smooth humor to paint various incidents that ensnared his curiosity in this temperamental segment of Curious Incidents, Nazimbe unveils a series of commotions [both relaxing and disorderly] in this chapter of his journal. He paints the reflection of blue herons perched atop a still pond, beaks underwater to snatch a fish. He illustrates figures atop a sand hill catching fire from the skies and laments about a half-consumed bottle of local home-made “Rihaakuru”. He colors puddles on sandy streets that mirrors a series of wavy greens and shows a rusted yellow concrete mixer trapped inside bushes on the sidewalk with two men taking to the forest. Nazimbe', through his art, transports us into oft-forgotten histories of our land.