Monday, April 20, 2009
Heritage vital to the survival of Maldives as a nation
The recent history of Kalhuvakaru Mosque is a virtual barometer that reflects the cavalier treatment meted out to Maldivian heritage by successive regimes. It is also a damning clue to why the younger generation has lost its sense of identity and pride in the nation.
Built of ebony wood (the black color of which gives the mosque its name) on a carved coral stone base, Kalhuvakaru Mosque dates back to 1789, to the regime of King Hassan Noordeen I in the Maldives and the French Revolution in Europe. Till 1978 it was located near the National Football Stadium.
In 1978 Kalhuvakaru Mosque was dismantled to make way for a larger two-storey mosque. The old woodwork and masonry was auctioned off and bought by Furanafushi resort, where it was reconstructed. After Maumoon Abdul Gayoom became president later that year he took action to get back the mosque. The Australian owner of Furanafushi donated the mosque to the government (It was not bought back as claimed by the government).
Maumoon’s action appears to have been motivated more by politics than any love for heritage. This is indicated by the fact that the mosque was not restored back to its original historical site. Rather, it was placed in an insignificant corner of Sultan’s Park and left to decay. Perhaps it would have been better maintained if it was left in Furanafushi.
Kalhuvakaru Mosque was not the only historical structure demolished during the regimes of Ibrahim Nasir and Maumoon. The list includes, Aa Koattay Buruzu and other forts in Male, most buildings in the royal palace compound, Sifainge and numerous historic mosques in various parts of Maldives.
Last year, under an externally funded project, restoration work was started on Kalhuvakaru Mosque. The mosque was reopened by President Mohamed Nasheed on Monday. Speaking at the ceremony he said that history and heritage were the most important distinctions of a country. This is a significant departure from the past policy on nationalism and heritage, giving a ray of hope for national revival.