Exclusive Interview: Revealing Nifa’s Exceptional Artistry in Maldivian Urban Life

Artist Nifa hala Maldif interview - Maldives

Thursday, 16th November 2023

Aishath Nifa is a talented Maldivian Artist whose work beautifully captures the essence of the Maldives’ islands and daily life. Thank you very much, Nifa, for accepting our interview invitation. We’re excited to learn more about your creative journey. In this interview, Nifa shares insights into the world of art, her passion for portraying the Maldivian way of life, and the inspiration behind your extraordinary art.

Nifa, tell us about yourself and your home island in the Maldives. How does your background shape your view of life in Male’, the subject of your paintings? 

Hello and thank you team Hala Maldif for this opportunity. 

My name is Nifa and I’m an artist from Maldives. Having grown up in Male’, the capital city of Maldives, I’ve witnessed its remarkable transformation over the years. Once a humble island with sandy roads, and low walled houses and lush abundant greenery, Male’ has now become a bustling city with tall buildings, paved roads and a constant flow of vehicles. It has become quite alive. 

Currently I am captivated by the blend of old and modern aspects of Male’ and want to capture these in my artwork.  

Majeedhee Magu Artwork by Nifa

The Maldives is famous for its islands, but your art focuses on daily life in Male’. What about the city’s evolution and the mix of old and new interests you the most? 

As we all know Maldives is renowned for its picturesque white sandy beaches and crystal-clear blue waters, which are often featured in magazines, postcards, and travel websites. Tourists who visit us are captivated by this aspect of Maldives, as well as the laid-back island lifestyle that can be experienced during island excursions. Although I personally adore and cherish the island life whenever I visit, I also want to showcase the evolving city life of Maldives that is equally captivating and unique. 

Watercolor Painting of Galolhukanmathi by Nifa

Many of your paintings show daily life on the roads of Male’. What specific parts of city life inspire you, and how do you show them in your art?

I’m always on the lookout for old structures lost in between tall buildings, lively junctions where people gather near small kiosks for a coffee or a game of chess, busy garages in the middle of the city, old colourful walls, busy roads during a sunset with reflections of one building on to another, busy harbour areas with chaotic arrangements of fishing vessels. These are some of the many things that I want to capture in my paintings. 

Splash of colours…..Roashaneemagu

Your art captures the changing culture in Male’. How do you show the mix of old and new, and what messages do you aim to convey about this transformation? 

As I have previously expressed my fondness for the combination of old and new, particularly when it comes to old structures amidst modern buildings. Preserving the essence of old and new Male’ in my artwork is something I’m passionate about. 

Watercolor inspired by the beautiful porch by Nifa

Can you share your process for painting the streets of Male’? Do you paint from memory or on location, and how do you highlight the contrast between the old and new? 

I don’t rely solely on my memory when drawing. And I don’t preplan a specific area to paint. I find inspiration in random subjects that catch my attention while I’m out and about. I often pause to capture these moments by taking multiple photos from various angles. If I can’t fit everything in one photo, I sometimes combine multiple photos to create a wider perspective. However, I’m not the best photographer, so I often have to go back multiple times to get a clear well detailed photo before I start with my painting. 

There’s always something to look out for, the colorful old walls make beautiful contrast with modern sleek buildings. 

Home series by Nifa

Male’ is rapidly changing with a mix of traditional and modern elements. How do you preserve these contrasts in your art, and how do you want viewers to connect with the changing city? 

I want to capture the areas I paint in the most realistic way possible. Instead of focusing on famous landmarks, I enjoy painting lively, contrasting and eye-catching scenes like a busy street. It always brings me joy when viewers connect with my art, trying to identify which part of Male’ my artwork represents. And it’s particularly rewarding when people recognise their own neighbourhood in my work. 

Under the breadfruit tree – Ranaura plant by Nifa

Henna/heena fai – Berebedhi tree with part of Muliaage in the background by Nifa

Are there specific places or moments in Male’ that strongly influence your art, considering your focus on unseen aspects of the city? 

There are so many things that never fails to amaze me. Especially when it comes to old architecture with their intricate works. And I find myself drawn to old homes that are few nowadays, as well as ruins and walls that have been overtaken by trees and vegetations. All these among modern structures are truly captivating. 


Tell us about one of your favourite paintings showing life in the streets of Male’. What’s the story behind it, and what emotions or memories does it evoke for you?

I can’t say I have one favorite painting. But there are three that I really enjoyed doing. One of which is not of a street. But it captures the vibrant and bustling Male’ fishing harbour where all the tuna fishing vessels rest after long fishing trips. It’s a colorful and chaotic mess when viewed from above. 

The second is of a lively, vibrant junction named as Galolhukanmathi where you will always find a small crowd of people gathered around a game of chess at roadside. 

And the third painting is of the main road of Male’, Majeedhee Magu, which has evolved over time into a lively economical hub. Although the reference photo was not taken by me, I was so taken with it that I got the photographer’s permission to do a painting. This artwork portrays a significant part of Majeedhee Magu, with tall buildings with the glass windows reflecting the structures of the buildings on opposite sides while a settling sun casts a beautiful glow over the road. 

I remember a time when the same area was very different with hardly any vehicles, just few bicycles on the sandy roads, and lots of greenery. It used to be a walk we enjoyed from school. 

Harbour by Nifa

As an artist capturing urban evolution in Male’, how do you think your art contributes to documenting the city’s cultural and environmental heritage? 

My passion lies in preserving the essence of old structures and lively areas that have yet to replace by modern buildings. The combination of old and new is particularly fascinating to me. I believe it’s crucial for future generations to witness the significant transformation that has taken place in just a short span of time. Even those of us who have lived through many of these changes struggle to comprehend the extent of these transformation. 

I regret not starting this project sooner, as there are countless memories of places and architecture that I would have loved to capture and preserve in my art for the future generation to see. 

Nifa was honored by the presence of the former President of Maldives and former Heritage Minister at the opening ceremony of Unveiling Vision 2021

What advice do you have for young Maldivian artists wanting to capture the changing dynamics of Male’ and its streets through their art? 

Maldives is more than a destination with sandy beaches and crystal clear, blue seas. It’s a place that’s constantly evolving and changing and there’s so much more to it than meets the eye. Don’t hesitate to show this different side of Maldives that many of our guests and tourists may not be familiar with. It’s still a beautiful place, no matter what angle you look it from. So go ahead and show all aspects of this amazing destination in your artworks.  

AA.Rasdhoo by Nifa

Send a Direct Message to Nifa on her Instagram account @afin_art_mv for commission inquiries or purchases. Don’t forget to follow her account too!

Another Artworks by Nifa reflects the cultural heritage of the Maldives

“This exclusive interview conducted by hala Maldif featuring Artist Nifa on 16th November 2023, is copyrighted material. Any unauthorized reproduction, distribution, or use of this content is strictly prohibited.”

Another Artworks, by Nifa, of famous Maldivian Fruits and Plants (Bambukeyo & Boakashikeyo)

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