Heaven and hell

Above and below: High Commissioner Farhanaz Faizal with portraits that are a reminder of the Maldives’ dark past

The High Commissioner for The Maldives uses shock tactics on her walls to remind visitors of the country’s struggle for freedom. Here she tells Pierre de Villiers the message behind the images

Anyone visiting the Maldives High Commission expecting tranquil seascape paintings on the walls promoting the country’s paradise-like image are in for somewhat of a rude awakening.

Instead, adorning the corridor leading up to the office of High Commissioner Dr Farahanaz Faizal is a vision of hell: two of the most shocking works of art you are ever likely to find in a diplomatic mission – vivid portraits of a man in agony seemingly being tortured.

“The paintings remind us that no matter what, we should never go back to those dark days in the Maldives”

“These images were painted by Nuashad Waheed, my deputy High Commissioner who spent time in jail in the Maldives as a prisoner of conscience,” Dr Faizal explains. “Before he became one of the more prominent artists in the Maldives, he was an illustrator for a magazine and was jailed for drawing a cartoon of the former president.

“After that Nuashad was sent to jail again for various paintings he did. He continued do some sketches while in prison and he smuggled them out. These are some of the paintings he did afterwards. It’s his way of expressing the things he experienced.”

For Dr Faizal the paintings send a strong message about the country’s struggle for freedom and its determination for a better future for the Maldives.

“People might find the paintings disturbing when they walk past them into my office,” says the High Commissioner, who decided on hanging the striking works of art after seeing a wall of photos chronicling the battle against apartheid at the South African High Commission. “But it just reminds us that no matter what, we should never go back to those dark days in the Maldives.”