The White Fire – the plight of coral reefs

As Maldivians, our lives are closely intertwined with our environment. Most importantly and uniquely in our case, with coral reefs that we are surrounded by. However, it’s common practice to find the most unique corals taken out of their natural habitat and sold to tourists around the world.

The growth of corals in a painstakingly slow process. Along with the warming oceans, the process is hindered even further leaving the reefs washed out and colorless.

Local artist and award-winning photographer, Mohamed Azmeel, aka Double Dot had always been concerned about the number of rare corals he’d find during his travels to resorts and local islands. Having realized the importance and vulnerability of corals led him to create a body of work to explore the connection between human life and nature.

During his travels, he has stumbled upon faux replicas of corals made by a Singaporean company by the name of Big Blue. He then worked with them to create an array of resin corals made using a combination of 3D printing and underwater photography. The series of photographs were shot using the artificial corals and models, transformed into coral like structures. Each photograph was a process of composing and sculpting which took between 6-14 hours to create. A project which could only be made possible with the help of a very supportive friend and make up artist, Ruthba.

The White Fire Exhibition was unveiled at Jumeirah Vittaveli on 1st February 2020, showcasing a stunning series of thought-provoking conceptual photographs, a coral centerpiece and a live model in a custom coral gown. Using commonly found wall putty, the artist transformed the venue into an experiential art gallery. Two large beautifully crafted coral walls mark the entrance of the exhibition and lead the way into the space. The centerpiece, a stunning display of artificial corals draw the viewer in. A model, sculpted from head to toe, sits motionless in eerie silence. The photographs, placed in easels surround the space, each an expression of the interconnectedness of humans and life below water.

The evening at Jumeriah started off with an informative yet emotional talk by Shaheena Ali, the director of Parley for the Oceans, Maldives Chapter. Also a professional diver, she described her experience diving as a young girl to have been a colorful experience. She added that much of that had changed with the El Niño event in 1998, which had killed off most of the reefs. Now with the changing climate, there simply isn’t enough time for the water to cool and the corals to recover.

After a short speech by the General Manager of Jumeirah Vittaveli, Abhijit Ghosh, former president and climate activist Mohamed Nasheed gave a rousing speech about climate change and its adverse impacts on our small island nation. He expressed that Maldivians are the best people to alert the world about the dangers of climate change. We have seen the impact it has on our shores first hand and understand the danger the dangers it poses to the planet. The artist himself welcomed the guests with a short speech and led the way to the opening of the exhibition.

The White Fire exhibition expressed a strong and important message. The artist successfully engaged the viewer in an educational journey on a topic that he felt was not talked about enough. Being a local artist, he also hopes this project will be a source of inspiration and support for others who face difficulties executing their projects. Although he struggled to get funding, the project ultimately came into fruition.