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The Talented Quartet: Oevaali Part-2

A Digital Liaison with the members of Oevaali reflecting on their ‘Heritage through Folk’ exhibition

Lujine Rasheed
24 August 2018, MVT 09:09
Inside the Auditorium Hall where the exhibition was held. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/OEVAALI ART SHOP
Lujine Rasheed
24 August 2018, MVT 09:09

Segueing from the fantastic experience I had at the Oevaali 'Heritage through Folk' art exhibition, I curiously ferreted my way into the work that went into presenting such a well organized display. Particularly, the spadework and elbow-grease that a task as such demanded.

Emphatically and with much enthusiasm, I reached out to the Oevaali team in hopes of seeking answers to satisfy my curiosity about their work process and what inspires such thought-provoking art.

Voila!

The team replied back promptly, green-lighting our way forward and an enlightening correspondence thus began.

The Oevaali folk provided a behind-the-scenes exclusive that truly represented the worth of this exhibition, read on to find out more!

Part 2: The Digital Liaison

Select resin-art masterpieces from Raniya and Ajikko's resin-art collection. PHOTO/OEVAALI TEAM

First and foremost, I wanted to find out how Oevaali approached Xavier Romero-Frias to work in alignment with them for this exhibition. How important was it for the team to have him on board?

"It was so important to have him on board. A Spanish writer and scholar, Mr. Romero-Frias had lived among Maldivians for over a decade, and I can’t think of a better mentor for us to navigate our ancestral identity.

I started with sourcing his publications; many of which are banned by the Maldivian government and hard to find. After a few weeks of no luck, I emailed him personally and he responded immediately. That was about a year before the scheduled Exhibition, and he was always available with answers and advice throughout, until the event.

On behalf of the whole team at Oevaali Art Shop, I’d like to thank him again for being a part of this project with us!"

Next, I questioned them about the transportation process of the pieces of art, particularly as Oevaali Art Shop is based outside of Male.

"For our 2018 exhibition in Male’, although the largest two pieces in the exhibition had been painted in Male’, the rest of the 30+ art pieces were shipped from Singapore.

It was challenging due the the sizes of the acrylic paintings, the weight of the resin paintings and the delicateness of the sculptures, but our priority is always to find the safest ways to ship them to Male’ as we are extremely protective of our art.

"Some of them were hand carried by the artists while some were shipped through trusted couriers. It is always a risk to transport them, but so far we have not faced any major issues".

Throughout the 'Heritage through Folk' exhibition, as well as rummaging through Oevaali Art Shop's product catalogue, I had much praise to offer team ‘Oevaali’ and their majestic artistry. But how did they describe their own brand?

"As designers and artists, we put a lot of nostalgic emotion into our art and products. We make art and products with passion and heart, and we love the community we have created around appreciating how beautiful Maldives is, being proud of our culture, our ocean, our people, our skin, our life and our heritage".

Having acquired this scintilla of behind-the-curtain activity, I extended my questions to individual members of the Oevaali team, and their roles in amassing the exhibition.

Raniya Ahmed Mansoor (Curator)

One of the most unique qualities that this exhibition embodied was its concept which solely focused on Maldivian Heritage.

Oevaali team smiling for a picture amidst the 'Heritage through Folk' exhibition. PHOTO/OEVAALI TEAM

How was the idea to assemble a collection solely focusing on Maldivian heritage curated?

"Maldivian history and anthropology is a really interesting collection of traveller’s accounts, mysticism and oral tradition. There is such an incredible potential for an artist to contribute in it’s preservation by visualizing our beautiful heritage.

We come from an indigenous people with a distinct culture that is worth a much deeper look and understanding. What does being Maldivian mean? Who are we? It’s easy to forget sometimes.

The idea came about with the purposeful intention of growing as Artists, but more importantly as Maldivian Artists, and to share that experience with our community. We couldn’t think of a better place to start than from the beginning".

Could you describe the process of preparing for this particular concept?

"It was definitely challenging and time consuming. Sifting through the literature and separating opinion from fact, making the stories we focused on as accurate as possible. We were lucky – Mr. Xavier Romero-Frias was very responsive to my requests; and kindly posted to me his rare research material on Maldivian Heritage. Our Exhibition was based on his work, and we can’t thank him enough. The whole process of reading, developing the content, conceptualizing, and painting took many days and nights – half a year to be precise. But it was a very enlightening journey for my team and myself".

How did you find the process of curating an exhibition with such a broad concept?

"It was challenging to find that overarching narrative when you have a such a broad concept spanning across many years and many subjects.

As my team and I delved deeper and deeper into it, our purpose became clear – who were the Children of the Sea?"

How successful did you feel the Oevaali Art Exhibition was?

"I think there is always room to grow and improve.

In retrospect, I can see things that I would look into improving and refining at our next exhibition. I think it was a fantastic first for the Oevaali Art Shop team and I can’t wait for bigger and better exhibitions in the future!"

Raya Mansoor (Acrylics)

Raya Mansoor photographed with her acrylic paintings. PHOTO/OEVAALI TEAM

How would you describe your collection for 'Heritage through Folk' in a single word?

"Enlightening."

What was your favorite piece out of your collection, and why?

"For our Heritage through Folk exhibition, I created the largest painting I have done thus far; ‘Three Waves’ was a 100 x 120 cm art piece that illustrated the dramatic ending of the popular Maldivian Folk story ‘Odithan Kalege and His Wife’.

‘Three Waves’ is the piece that I like the most because I got to take my time and really enjoy creating each layer of the wave in the colours of fire.

It turned out looking exactly like the picture I painted in my mind as I read the story of Odithan Kalege and His Wife".

Do you find there is more to be discovered through art within the theme of 'Maldivian Heritage'?

"There is so much more of the Maldivian heritage to be discovered through art.

Therefore, strengthened by the overwhelming response we got from our Heritage through Folk exhibition, understanding and sharing Maldivian heritage through visual art is something that Oevaali Art Shop will continue to do in the future".

How successful do you think your exhibition was?

“Being our first exhibition, and one that tackled an important theme, the Heritage through Folk exhibition was very special to us.

Oevaali Art Shop was able to portray it in a way that encouraged visitors to enjoy learning about Maldivians and our heritage.

There is always room for improvement, so I feel that with everything I learnt while being in charge operations during this exhibition, can be used for our next one to make it better."

Imma Rasheed (Sculpt & Clay)

Imma Rasheed working on his sculpture art. PHOTO/OEVAALI TEAM

When getting ready for a thematic exhibition, do you find that your daily thought process is also occupied with ideas pertaining to similar themes?

"During the months leading up to the gallery, I found myself immersed in the stories and themes.

I always try to put myself in the shoes of the characters, as it gives me inspiration to try and invoke the essence of the stories into my sculptures and paintings".

Being that your main contribution for this exhibition were sculptures, why and how did you decide on sculpting?

"I’ve always been fascinated by works of Caravaggio; specifically the technique chiaroscuro, which he used heavily.

This is basically the use of light and shadow. I find that sculptures have that light and darkness built in to them as a physical quality. How much light or shadow can be controlled by the sculptor.

I’ve always loved having that sort of control, add into being able incorporate the metallic colours - it was a dream".

What were some points of reference that inspired your art?

"The works of Xavier Romero-Frias provided a lot of material for me to explore. I’ve also drawn a lot of inspiration from local musicians like Anya Haleem.

Lastly, as I’ve already mentioned, Caravaggio and his his techniques have always been a big influence on my creativity."

How successful do you think your exhibition was?

"I feel like we were able to bring some of the Maldivian folk stories to life and into the light for the public, and in that sense I believe that it was a success".

Raniya Mansoor & Ali Ajikko (Resin Art)

Ajikko Rasheed (L) and Raniya Mansoor proudly displaying their resin art collection. PHOTO/OEVAALI TEAM

Diving straight into the show stopping 'resin art' pieces, tell us about your experience dabbling in this medium.

Raniya: "It was a lot of messy fun, as art should be! Completely experimental at the beginning, with a steep learning curve, we were soon completely immersed in the medium.

Each piece in the Exhibition was a collaborative team effort between myself and Ajikko; following which we are now planning more pieces coming up over the next few weeks!"

Ajikko: "I definitely got inspired watching Raniya do her acrylic pours and wanted to tinker with the medium myself. It was exploratory at first but with a couple pieces done, I got hooked to the medium.

There’s a lot of research and practice as in any craft but what’s work when it’s fun! Working with Raniya, made the whole process a lot more fun than maybe it should have been while at the same time growing as artists".

Taking the abstract nature of Maldivian folklore into account, was it challenging to keep the artworks coherent through this medium?

Raniya: "Ajikko and I have been friends for so many years and we also have similar preferences of composition and color, so it was really easy to work with each other and bounce around ideas on the spot."

Ajikko: “Whenever ideas did clash, we went with the idea that better suited the piece. As mysticism and supernatural elements are recurrent themes in Maldivian Folklore, we decided to represent these themes in a copper colour to knit all the pieces together."

Raniya: “We then stayed true to the bright and colorful folk stories behind the paintings.

Our focus was to highlight a concept – it could be happiness, lust, nostalgia, mystery and mystique, fear, peace, simplicity – we’d choose the colors this way".

Ajikko: Any other colours and composition would then be inspired by the stories themselves and how they made us feel".

Do you see a bigger market in the Maldives for resin art pieces?

Raniya: "I certainly think so, but only time will tell. It is exciting that we are getting inquiries from homeowners, local business offices, interior decorators as well as from hotels and resorts. We encourage anyone interested to continue to reach out to discuss your ideas with us".

Ajikko: “Most definitely. And we’re also exploring the possibility of making other products using Resin. There’s definitely a market out there for Resin Art, we just need to get it out there".

How successful do you think your exhibition was?

Ajikko: "This exhibition was an incredible experience that we’ve gone through and the growth, both individually and as a team, is invaluable. Looking back, there’s always areas we could improve upon and we can’t wait to put on an even better exhibition next year!"

Having enquired as much as possible about 'Heritage through Folk', I asked them about the possibility of any upcoming exhibitions by Oevaali Art Shop.

Team: “With the overwhelming support and love we received at our first exhibition Heritage though Folk held in June 2018, we are definitely looking forward to have at least one huge exhibition every year.

We have just recently finalized the theme for our 2019 exhibition which shall be held mid year.

We look forward to revealing the exact details soon and inviting portfolio submissions!"

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