Nakaiy Almanac by Ben Pollock

The Nakaiy Almanac visually merges indigenous knowledge and weather data, showcasing the value of an intricate and historic understanding of weather patterns and of emerging changes in weather patterns due to climate change in the Maldives.

Situated within the Indian Monsoon's domain the Maldives developed the Nakaiy Calendar as a means to govern life and livelihoods in the Atolls. Through keen environmental observation, the transfer of knowledge through oral traditions, day counting and the synchronization of this wisdom with annual astrological cycles, a generalized and patterned understanding of weather and the environment was established. This indigenous knowledge was retained orally and employed to predict local weather and environmental occurrences for the same periods in the following year, given the monsoon's previously stable and mechanical behaviour.

At a macro-scale, communities utilized the Iruvaa (north-east wet monsoon) to plan safer sea trade with neighbouring atolls as well as navigating the Bay of Bengal to reach other South Asian countries. Similarly, they identified specific periods within the Hulhangu (southwest dry monsoon) to focus on local crop cultivation and enhanced fishing strategies during the presence of migrating species. At a micro-scale, this indigenous environmental understanding intertwined rich cultural practices, leading to the development of island-specific livelihoods that centre around the Nakaiy. Oral history, folklore, religious rituals, music, and magic all evolved symbiotically with the Nakaiy. Such practices and knowledge both created and supported stable livelihoods and unique cultural expressions. This historical integration has allowed islanders to seamlessly navigate between different scales of daily life and empowered those who held Nakaiy knowledge with the ability to know the weather.

However, in recent years, the effects of climate change have disrupted the once reliable predictions derived from Nakaiy. Fluctuations, deviations, and breakdowns in the previously stable structure of the monsoon have subsequently impacted locally formed weather.

Plotting meteorological data from 1994 to 2022 such as windspeed, rainfall, atmospheric pressure, cloud cover, temperature, and humidity which are all directly connected to core observations within the Nakaiy. By mapping these variables, the visualisation exposes both macro and micro patterns, as well as yearly anomalies, extremes and sub-seasonal patterns to emerge which are in keeping with Nakaiy observations.

As a technical tool, the data visualisation aspires to function as an almanac that not only values traditional understandings and knowledge of weather but also provides viewers with insights to interpret current weather data and patterns through their own embodied understanding and experience of weather. To those with an understanding of the Nakaiy, the almanac can reach further back in time with a historic understanding beyond the time frame of the data used.

While the ability to predict the weather as per past methods may no longer be feasible given the trajectory of climate change, the Nakaiy Almanac aims to foster a deeper cultural and locally tangible appreciation of the threats and challenges posed by climate change, without relying on projected Western understandings, external framings or intangible data.