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A new sculptural work, Coralarium, created by artist and environmentalist Jason deCaires Taylor, was demolished last week after it was deemed anti-Islamic. The semi-submerged artwork was criticised by religious leaders and scholars in the Maldives, where Islam is the official religion. The depiction of human figures in art is discouraged under Islamic law.

The government ordered the destruction of the artwork, after a court ruled it to be a threat to “Islamic unity and the peace and interests of the Maldivian state”, the Maldives Independent reported, despite the authorities previously granting permission.

The project by DeCaires Taylor, who is known for his underwater sculptures and galleries around the world, was commissioned by the Fairmont Maldives Sirru Fen Fushi resort, owned by the Accor hotel group, as an “intertidal gallery”, and was completed in July. The large steel frame with cutouts aiming to mimic the marine world was intended to allow sea life to explore freely within, acting as a new habitat for coral and other species. Thirty human figures were positioned on top and inside the frame at tidal level, with others submerged beneath. The sculptures were based on life-casts of people, around half of them Maldivian, with some reimagined as hybrid forms including coral or root-like elements.

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Vijay Nanda

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