With Nika Museum, Nika Island transforms into ‘patron’ of Maldives culture, heritage

Patronage is defined as the support, encouragement, privilege or aid that an organisation or individual bestows to another. In the history of arts, “Patronage” refers to the support that has been provided to artists such as musicians, painters and sculptors.

For this concept, most languages still use the term “Mecenate”, which is derived from the name of Gaius Maecenas who was a generous friend and adviser to the Roman Emperor Augustus. During the Renaissance, not only in Italy but also in Europe, the concept of “Patronage” and “Mecenatismo” allowed arts to flourish, as several groups of Patrons sponsored art and architecture, painting, sculpture and handicrafts.

Can a Maldivian resort turn into a “Mecenate”, into a Patron? Can a hotel preserve, protect and revamp the folklore and heritage of a nation made up of thousands of islands?

At Nika Island Resort, this question turned into a challenge at first. But it has now become a reality, with the recent opening of the Nika Museum.

Nika Museum is the result of the transformation of an old furnace which was used to cast and forge metals. During the conversion of the old furnace into the museum, two dimensions coexisted: the concept of conservation, which is part of Nika’s DNA, and the creation of a new space that constantly interacts with the guests.

At Nika Museum, a maze of tunnels that turn into galleries, coral-made vaults and arches lead visitors through an unexpected space and a unique collection of historical artefacts, art pieces and creations by local artists. This selection of items allows the Nika to share with the community of travellers a fascinating story and to make the local community (re)discover the nation’s heritage which is slowly fading away.

“The new museum is a space that reflects the beauty of a nation; it tells what the nation has been – and hopefully – it can even foreshadow future developments of the Maldives,” Edoardo Caccin, the External Director at Nika Island, said.

“The museum aims to generate awareness among the travellers, to make them understand that the destination they are experiencing cannot be reduced to a series of breathtaking beaches.”

Over the years, Nika Island has been forging close relations with both the public and private sector in Maldives as well as local and international NGOs and artists. The Nika Museum presents itself as a platform for these partners to share their stories with the guests.

At Nika Museum, UNDP explains the main challenges Maldivians face in their daily life, whilst Trans Maldivian Airways (TMA) — the largest seaplane operator in the world — describes how the concept of connectivity is evolving along with the development of the hospitality industry. Local artists, poets and dancers share their art and their vision for the country.

“The team of this island wants to celebrate, elevate and spread the unique components of the Maldivian culture among the travellers. How? Simply using the mechanisms and dynamics that belong to all the museums in the world: selected items, handcrafts, artefacts and pieces of art – combined with storytelling – will guide the visitors through the folklore and heritage of the country,” Caccin said.

“Nika welcomes whoever has a story and wants to explain the dynamics that make the Maldivian archipelago a unique destination in the globe.”

In addition to the private collection, the museum is also hosting the exhibition title, “The Island Nation” by Zuleyha Ali.

Zuleyha is a talented Maldivian artist who made history for being the first Maldivian artist to be selected to participate at the prestigious Florence Biennale 2017 in Italy. Zuleyha’s work has been displayed in international exhibitions in Paris, New York, Florence, Chianciono Terme, Singapore, Beijing, Dhaka and Colombo. Five of her paintings have entered the permanent collection of the Chinese Ministry of Art and Culture in Beijing. Two of her paintings have entered Beijing Yi Pu Culture’s permanent collection in Singapore.

Zuleyha’s paintings showcased as part of the collection at Nika Museum illustrate an array of natural scenes that the Maldives has to offer. The collection focuses on the alarming threats the country faces due to environmental concerns such as climate change and global warming.

“I aim to portray my art works as an engaging visual representation that I hope will grab the attention of viewers. I like to focus on and highlight their role in preserving nature. I also find it very important to draw the attention of young minds and adults alike to environmental issues and nature in a positive way, in order to foster constructive and optimistic changes towards a more sustainable world,” Zuleyha said.

Located in North Ari Atoll, Nika is a milestone of the Maldives hospitality industry.

The deserted island of Kudafolhudhu turned into a resort back in 1983. Since its inception, the philosophy and values that shaped this unique boutique resort are the same: privacy, natural sophistication and local heritage.

All of its 43 villas have been built according to the traditional Maldivian architectural style. Being one of the first resorts built in the country, everything on the island has been built using coral blocks, coconut palm trunks and palm leaves. A collection of antiques and unique Maldivian pieces of art decorate the interiors of all the villas.

Nika is a perfect example of a boutique hotel that breaks the dynamics of big international brands that are reshaping the Maldivian hospitality industry. Nika is a heady mix of Italian lifestyle and Maldivian traditions; a unique platform where heritage and natural beauty meet together.

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