Hail rock art enriches world heritage map

Updated 09 July 2015

Hail rock art enriches world heritage map

RIYADH: Happy with the inclusion of Hail rock art in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage List, which is the second entry in consecutive years as the Historic Jeddah was listed last year, a wider-section of Saudi society hailed the decision as “unique achievement” for Kingdom in two successive years.

Reacting to the big announcement, Education Minister Azzam Al-Dakhil expressed his pleasure on such a great cultural accomplishment and appreciated the key role played by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTNH) and Hail governorate paying great attention to the registration of these sites for the 39th session of UNESCO world heritage committee in Bonn.
He described the initiative of registration as a civilized and conscious effort that constitutes an important step in to exhibiting the abundant heritage of the Kingdom.
“It offers to the world a true picture of enlightened Islamic principles that do not clash with others and this does not contradict with the teachings of Islam,” the minister said.
Al-Dakhil further maintained, “Such a great accomplishment highlighting Saudi history and its deeply rooted heritage, confirms the Kingdom’s position at the crossroad of civilizations and the rock engravings that are registered today are a sufficient witness as these date back to approximately 10,000 years ago.”
Hail Gov. Prince Saud bin Abdul Mohsin considers the registration of Hail rock art in the World Heritage List as a great accomplishment that reflects Kingdom’s deeply rooted civilization and its richness in human heritage.
“Such an international recognition crowns the blessed efforts of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman, who pays great attention to everything related to the national heritage and necessity of being introduced to Kingdom’s current and future generations,” Prince Saud underlined.
He also extended his appreciation to Prince Sultan bin Salman, SCTNH president, for his great efforts towardthe preservation of the national heritage as this site represents fourth in a row to join the prestigious UNESCO list following Madain Saleh, Historic Diriya and Historic Jeddah.
“These important sites should be provided with integrated network of infrastructure and basic services besides raising the awareness of local people on the importance of such an ancient place,” he added.
Ali bin Ibrahim Al-Ghabban, SCTNH vice-president and supervisor of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosque program for caring of Kingdom’s cultural heritage, who also headed the team for the registration of Hail rock art in the World Heritage list, commented that inclusion of the rock art represents a new historic and heritage milestone for the Kingdom.
“It is a unique achievement of its kind as the rare drawings depict the daily lives of the ancient time during prehistoric age,” he observed.
Al-Ghabban disclosed that the UNESCO heritage committee members representing 22 countries unanimously approved the registration of the site and commended its cultural and humanitarian importance as these arts represent a graphic record of man practicing his activities, his adaptation to environment and the cultural level during the neolithic age.
“The Hail rock art’s inclusion has left a great responsibility on SCTNH, its partners and the local community regarding site’s protection and preservation, while at the same time it also represents a great opportunity for development in the region as well as creating job opportunities for locals,” he pointed.


Saudi Arabia’s AlUla lands interactive art exhibition

AlUla is an archaeological marvel — boasting golden sandstone canyons, colossal arches and rock formations — that has played host to numerous ancient civilizations, making it a significant cultural crossroads. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 20 January 2020

Saudi Arabia’s AlUla lands interactive art exhibition

  • Famed for its rock formations and archaeological treasures, the valley’s dramatic landscape inspires creative concepts

JEDDAH: The Royal Commission for AlUla has collaborated with Desert X to bring an interactive installation to the area for the first time.

Desert X began in 2017, in California’s Coachella Valley, as a way to connect modern art with desert communities and cultures.
It is Desert X’s first international collaboration and starts on Jan. 31, running through to March 7, as part of AlUla’s Winter at Tantora festival.
AlUla Valley is famed for its rock formations, dramatic desert landscape and archaeological treasures.
Neville Wakefield, artistic director and co-curator for Desert X, said the exhibition would bring together local artists and ones from further afield.
“You discover that the same things that we find artists following in southern California — the interest in the environment, natural resources, cultural memory, trade and migration — they’re common for everyone,” he told Arab News. “What’s interesting to me about Saudi Arabia is the demographic, it’s a very young nation. I hope this opens the door to encourage a new generation of artists to emerge and take (their) place on an international stage and vice versa.”

Outdoor exhibition
Site-specific exhibitions differ greatly from a gallery setup in a museum with a controlled or fixed environment. Curators and artists face more external factors that could hinder the installation process from the weather to safety measures such as falling rocks. Wakefield said the uncertainty made shows such as Desert X exciting. “It really is about engaging with the landscape.”
Artists were brought to the Kingdom on a site visit last year to process the surroundings and create their own installation proposals.
They were selected based on their response to the landscape, not only its physical nature but culturally, historically and socially.
Riyadh-based artist Muhannad Shono said he would have done anything to take part in Desert X.
“I wasn’t going to let it slip through my fingers,” he told Arab News. “We don’t get a lot of chances with free access and support to visualize and bring to life something in the desert — an enchanting and romantic place to set up an installation.”
He changed his mind about the concept several times before finally embracing his design — a sculptural path.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Desert X began in 2017, in California’s Coachella Valley, as a way to connect modern art with desert communities and cultures.

• Artists were brought to the Kingdom on a site visit last year to process the surroundings and create their own installation proposals.

• They were selected based on their response to the landscape, not only its physical nature but culturally, historically and socially.

“I wanted to trigger things we’ve experienced as children in the audience. For example, finding a treasure map of the desert and an X that marks the spot where oftentimes, you reach the spot and find nothing there. The chest is empty — either with nothing there or that someone got there first. But the journey and adventure are amazing,” said Shono.
The Saudi artist wanted to give people a chance to unleash an inner curiosity that would set them on a purposeful discovery, not one of materialistic value but to find meaning in themselves.
He said the installation was not easy to find. “It goes further and higher and the more you go, the more you discover yourself. Alone with yourself and that’s what’s important,” he added.

Humans and nature
Tunisian-born and US-based artist Lita Albuquerque has often explored the relationship between humans and nature. Her AlUla project also draws on her passion for cosmology.
“I’ve been working on a narrative about a female astronaut who comes to this planet to see interstellar consciousness. She wants to teach us about our relationship to the stars,” she told Arab News.
The astronaut visits through different periods of time, the artist explained. She comes from the future but also visits the past “as if she’s birthing astronomy, giving us this whole map of the stars down the valley.”
The astronaut sits on a boulder positioned at the western end of the valley, looking eastward down the entire valley.
“It looks as if she is offering something, and below her are 99 blue circles of different diameters that correspond to the aligned stars above. She’s a little bit bigger than life-sized. It’s surprising to see her in such a grand space,” Albuquerque said.
She first visited AlUla last September and got to see the whole region while scouting for sites.
She has worked in desert sites since the start of her career, so Desert X was a natural step for her. “I felt like I was part of Desert X from the very beginning,” she added.