By Ephemera documentary
Freshly catched tuna on boat (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary
Most people know the Maldives as a vacation destination. Over the past few decades, luxury resorts have provided a foundation for a booming tourism industry. The City of Malé has taken on all the typical characteristics of a modern capital. However, to the north, you can visit islands where people still make a living from fishing and agriculture.
Pole-and-line fishing for tuna is still at the center of life on the island of Hanimaadhoo. This unique Maldivian technique has been developed over centuries. However, tourism and modernization have begun to displace traditional tuna fishing as a primary economic activity.
An island in the Maldives (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary
Life in the North of Maldives is as calm as a palm tree in a light breeze. White sand seems to follow wherever you go.
A fisherman and his boat in Hanimaadho (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary
On Hanimaadhoo, you will find an airport and a resort. But there is no sight of visitors.
Maldives Fishermen (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary
The island is inhabited mostly by fishermen and their families.
Portrait Maldivian fishermen (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary
Hassan has been fishing since he was a child and still uses the techniques his father taught him.
Maldivian pole-and-line fishing (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary
Traditional tuna fishing in the Maldives is known as the pole-and-line technique. It starts by throwing live bait from the boat to attract fish.
Maldives fishermen sailing (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary
Younger fishermen, like Ahmed and his colleagues, rely on the pole-and-line technique as well. They have been sailing all night in search of live bait and now it's time to grab their fishing poles.
Maldivian pole-and-line fishers catching a tuna (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary
A tuna gets hooked and a fisherman swings his pole backward. The fish flies over and behind him, landing on the boat’s deck.
Maldives fishermen pole-and-line fishing (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary
The small baitfish and splashing water have attracted tuna to the water’s surface.
Maldives fishermen storing tuna (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary
The entire catch gathers in a pool in the middle of the boat. The physicality of pole-and-line seems to create a relationship between a fisherman and each fish he hooks.
Maldives fishermen making breakfast (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary
Sailing home now. Ahmed and his colleagues clean and cook a tuna for a well-deserved breakfast.
Maldives fishermen under the deck (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary
This traditional method used by Ahmed and Hassan is far more sustainable than commercial fishing, which relies on large fishing nets and multiple baited hooks. However, economic pressures have caused a decline in the use of the traditional method.
Maldives fisherman washing (2018) by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary
The future of the small islands like Hanimadhoo still depends on tuna fishing. Traditional fishing methods remain central to their way of life. How can pole-and-line be preserved in the face of modern economic pressures and climate change? Will Ahmed and Hassan’s grandchildren know when it’s time to swing the pole backward?
Terra by Angelo ChiacchioEphemera documentary
This story was created with the support of Art Works for Change, a nonprofit organization that creates contemporary art exhibitions and storytelling projects to address critical social and environmental issues.
Written, shot and produced by Angelo Chiacchio
Copy editing: Al Grumet, Rajesh Fotedar
With the support of: Google Arts & Culture, Art Works for Change
Thanks to: Ahmed Shahud, Ahmed Shareef, Ali Hussan, Ahmed Saleem, Mohamed Hussain, Hassan