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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - DHAHRAN: The Royal Commission for AlUla recently launched an ambitious site-specific artwork to highlight the need to protect the area’s ancient ruins and heritage.
The I Care initiative aims to raise awareness about the importance of preserving cultural and civilizational heritage and historic sites.
The campaign’s centerpiece work of art is currently visible in the shifting desert sands, but over the coming weeks it will naturally fade back into the landscape, symbolizing the need to conserve heritage before it vanishes.
Acting collections and conservation executive director of archeology, Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Suhaibani, told Arab News: “This campaign is for the community — it’s a celebration of their heritage.
“We had members of the community attend the curation of the artwork, from schoolchildren to rawis (oral storytellers). They came along to learn more about the artwork, its purpose, and how it was being created using sustainable techniques.”
• The I Care initiative aims to raise awareness about the importance of preserving cultural and civilizational heritage and historic sites.
• The artwork will naturally fade back into the landscape over the coming weeks, symbolizing the need to conserve heritage before it vanishes.
• Local schools are being encouraged to take part in the campaign with educational kits being distributed in Arabic and English.
The commission partnered with American land artist David Popa to create a piece in the AlUla landscape. The artwork features two giant hands emerging from the sands and cradling the iconic Tomb of Lihyan son of Kuza. It is located at Hegra, Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Popa, who is currently based in Europe, was specially chosen to collaborate with the project.
Al-Suhaibani said: “Famous for his sustainable approach and innovative techniques, we collaborated with David Popa due to his use of natural biodegradable pigments.
“For this artwork, Popa used yellow earth from Europe and red earth from the Middle East. Made exclusively from natural materials, the artwork will fade away within weeks.
Education is a key element of this campaign, it is the next generation who will be guardians of our heritage and it’s important we teach them of the importance of heritage and heritage preservation.
Abdulrahman Al-Suhaibani, Acting archeology, collections and conservation executive director, RCU
“We loved the idea of creating a piece of art that also served as a metaphor. The idea had been in development for some time but really came to life when we met David, and he talked us through the sustainable ways in which he creates his art.”
Visitors to Hegra can view the artwork at ground level or take a hot air balloon tour.
A commission spokesperson said: “(I Care) is a compelling conservation initiative with a call to action that aims to instil pride in the historical monuments of Saudi Arabia among its citizens, residents, and visitors.
“It encourages the safeguarding of these cultural assets and seeks to involve communities in the vital mission of heritage conservation.”
Local schools are being encouraged to take part in the campaign with educational kits being distributed in Arabic and English.
Working on this project has been an immense privilege. I Care is not just a campaign; it is a celebration of AlUla’s and the Kingdom’s legacy and traditions.
David Popa, American land artist
“Education is a key element of this campaign, it is the next generation who will be guardians of our heritage and it’s important we teach them of the importance of heritage and heritage preservation,” Al-Suhaibani added.
One of the main challenges in producing the artwork was the unpredictable desert weather.
“Luckily for us, it held out and we were able to create this beautiful piece of art that represents so much,” Al-Suhaibani said.
Popa said: “Working on this project has been an immense privilege. I Care is not just a campaign; it is a celebration of AlUla’s and the Kingdom’s legacy and traditions.
“AlUla’s heritage is a treasure for the entire world, and I have been enriched by the enlightening conversations I have had with the local storytellers, the rawis, the heritage rangers, and the young ambassadors being trained in the Hammayah program to take on guardianship of this invaluable heritage.”
Throughout the month, project representatives will work with schools and community members to highlight the importance of protecting AlUla’s rich heritage.
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