The Coralarium marine artwork has been destroyed for containing ‘idols’, under the regime of the outgoing president.
A new marine artwork in the Maldives featuring human forms as sculptures has been destroyed for being anti-Islamic, under the regime of outgoing president Abdulla Yameen.
Images circulating on social media show police attacking the sculptures on the semi-submerged artwork using saws, pickaxes and ropes, on the eve of a recent presidential election that Yameen lost to a liberal candidate.
The site had been criticised by religious leaders and scholars in the Maldives, where Islam is the official religion, because the depiction of human figures is said to be against Islamic law.
A Maldivian statement against the artwork uses the word budhu, which means idol, the worship of which is considered a sin in Islam.
The Coralarium opened at AccorHotels’ Fairmont Maldives Sirru Fen Fushi in July, designed by British artist and environmentalist Jason deCaires Taylor, aimed at bringing together art and marine conservation. It had become a popular site for divers.
The government ordered the intertidal gallery’s destruction after a court ruled it to be a threat to “Islamic unity and the peace and interests of the Maldivian state”, the Maldives Independent reports – even though the authorities had earlier given permission for it to be created.
Thirty human figures were positioned on and inside the large pH-neutral steel frame at tidal level, with others submerged beneath, intended as a new habitat for coral and other species.
The sculptures were based on life-casts of Maldivian people, with others reimagined as hybrid forms including coral and roots. It took nine months to be created.
“While we are very surprised by the removal of eco-art pieces by the authorities, we respect the people, traditions and customs of the Maldives,” AccorHotels said in a statement to the Guardian newspaper.
“The removal process was peaceful and friendly without interruption to our world famous service. The Coralarium structure and underwater trees remains intact, ensuring the coral restoration programme remains alive and well. We have initiated immediate reimagination plans with the artist, creating a new underwater gallery that will be in harmony with the locals and environment.”