The Maldives Whale Shark Festival is a collaboration between marine biologists, conservationists, artists, schools and island communities.
• Celebrating the marine diversity of South Ari atoll and its Marine Protected Area. (S.A.M.P.A.)
• Promoting environmental awareness and conservation
• Bringing communities together through creative workshops
• Supporting and showcasing Maldivian culture through storytelling and craftsmanship
• Contributing to the national cultural calendar
• Investing in eco-tourism and supporting civic participation
• Catalysing knowledge transfer between scientific researchers, island councils, educators, artists, school pupils and community members to safeguard the future of the whale shark and it’s natural habitat
On 6th December 2014 each of the 4 islands travelled by boat to Dhangethi where the streets were lined with flags and florescent sand art to greet them. People travelled from the whale shark-stencilled jetty, up the high street to the community center, festooned with palm art and mobiles created by Dhangethi youth club members from aluminium cans and plastic bottle tops.
The community center was converted for the day into a stadium where the morning activities were hosted- with large info-graphic boards on the walls for school groups to complete during the quiz. The main stage, bedecked with bubbles and festival banners designed by Malè based artist Emau Saleem, was primed to host each island’s festival story. Tales of island daring, cunning and comedy, these were told, sung or danced in exuberant fashion with hand crafted props and plenty of good-natured goading of neighbouring islands.
Foregrounding the stage and caught in full detail by the drone cameras circling overhead, the collaborative sand mandala, symbolising the coming together of the Islands with each section, transformed into a luminous marine life scene. The procession that followed, showcasing the costumes, banners and mascots created in the lead up to the festival was a fitting culmination for the 1000+ festival goers who, led by the Boda Beru drummers, wound their way around the island, dancing and shouting their way along the procession route whilst the local audience ran ahead and clung out of nearby windows to take photos, blow whistles and become part of the celebration. The narrow streets intensified the colour and clamor as the giant marine creatures were held proudly aloft and animated above the procession, all led by the regal whale shark, swimming it’s way through the crowds.
Mascots, costumes and flags, all labours of love that brought craftspeople young and old together within each island. Artists, dancers, children, parents, Councillors, drummers and guests in a moment of unrepeatable shared experience as they swam through the streets overhead on a wave of colour and community cohesion.
Click the picture below to watch a great little film of this awesome event