Zaffa Gayoom Stories from Paradise

  • Tauira / Student
    Zaffa Gayoom
  • Kaiako / Lecturers
    Katie Kerr, David Coventon

Stories From Paradise is an exploration of Maldivian history and culture through its mythology and folklore. Storytelling has always been a significant part of Maldivian history, making it suitable focal point for this project. There are little to no records of Maldivian folklore as they were passed down verbally through generations. Hence, this project is about capturing some of the stories that have been lost over the years.

Moreover, with the introduction of tourism and media, the image of the country has shifted to suit a more western worldview. Today, Maldives is often branded as being nothing more than a holiday destination. Hence, this project also aims to show the deeply rooted culture and history of Maldives often overlooked by foreigners and many locals alike. Stories From Paradise is a project that aims to educate not only tourists interested in learning about new cultures, but also young Maldivians who are growing up in a more “westernized” version of the country, and have little understanding of their own history.

The project consists of three posters that display characters from three different folklore, along with a book that provides more information about these stories and how they are significant to the culture and history of Maldives. The first explores the importance of coconut palms through the story of a wise sorcerer who grew the palm trees to provide sustenance for the islanders. The second outlines the significance of mysticism and superstition within Maldivian history through the story of ‘Dhonkamana’, the demon lady. The final story is about the sea monster, ‘Rannamaari’, and how it symbolizes the importance of seafaring in the country.

The design of the book takes inspiration from publications made in Maldives. This includes use of strong visuals, vibrant colours, and hand drawn type. The posters were inspired by old vintage travel posters that portrayed scenic images of different countries and places. Similar images taken of Maldivian tourist resorts were used and added the characters from the folklore into these scenes. I wanted to combine the idea of tourism culture with the more traditional culture of Maldives to show how the country is not just one thing, but a combination of both. I also used layers of coloured paper stacked on top of each other to create the posters, because I wanted to add to the concept of revealing the deeply rooted layers of Maldivian culture.