Photography Exhibit & Essay
the other side of posh: glimpses of daily life in the maldives
In 2014, Mark L Chaves traveled to the Maldives and opted to live on a “local’s” island. Chaves preferred to experience the local life and politely turned down an offer to live in an over-the-water bungalow on a private 5-star resort island. This allowed him to blend in and photograph people and scenes that tourists or even locals would not normally take. By sharing these photos, Chaves hopes people can, at least, get a glimpse into the Maldivian daily life before rising sea levels prompt voluntary and forced evacuations, thus changing the culture and landscape forever.
Typical photographs of the Maldives depict the private fantasy island-like atolls and the lavish lifestyle that the exclusive resorts cater to. This exhibit offers scenes of Maldivian life ‘behind’ the luxury resorts. The Other Side of Posh captures the daily routine of the people and landscapes, which are married to the Maldives lucrative tourist industry. In a span of four months spread over 2013 and 2014, Chaves lived on what is termed, an ‘inhabited island’, called Maafushi in the Kaafu Atoll.
Maafushi was an isolated island that opened to tourists only in 2010. Chaves witnessed the tourist ‘boom’ that ensued shortly after. This was a rare opportunity to document the early transformation of Maafushi from a sleepy fishing village to an international destination.
viewing our daily lives
As the number of resorts and tourists rise on Maafushi, so do the sea levels because of self-inflicted environmental threats. The Maldives are literally sinking as the ocean slowly reclaims this island nation, as with others countries in the same situation. The highest natural land point on the Maldives is about two metres. On average, the land is only as tall as an eleven-year-old child. Erosion and flooding have already caused one recent documented case of tourist evacuations on Maafushi. The main tourist beach on the island is vanishing rapidly, which will have devastating effects on the island’s economy and inhabitants well-being. Perhaps, Bali and other island communities can learn from Maafushi’s story. Perhaps, we can all think about viewing our own daily lives and its effects a little differently.
looks can be deceiving
At first glance, one might assume pristine sandy white beaches all around. There is only one safe beach on the island. The 'swimming' beach is about 50m long and rapidly shrinking due to erosion.
Maafushi's garbage dump has expanded outside of it's original containment area. Refuse now spills out of the fences onto the adjacent sea shore. Almost every night and sometimes during the day, the rubbish heap is lit on fire. The billowing, toxic fumes engulf the tiny island with all of its inhabitants and guests. A new, second garbage fire now burns regularly at the Maafushi Prison only a few hundred metres away.
“I was drawn to documenting this for a couple of reasons: (1) to bring awareness to how we view things -- the ordinary and mundane are beautiful things to me; not just the azure oceans and sky or the white puffy clouds and sand (2) to bring awareness to the overlooked people and places behind the glamour and luxury -- all lives matter; all lives are important.” share and enjoy, —mark l chaves