Six artists have been living in AlUla Oasis in north-western Saudi Arabia since the start of November as part of the pilot version of AlUla's first artists' residency programme. They have been collaborating with specialists who are developing the natural oasis into the planned 50-square-kilometre hospitality, heritage and cultural venture.
The goal of the scheme, says Arnaud Morand of Afalula, the French organisation assisting in the development of AlUla, is to create “co-operation between international artists and the impressive array of scientific experts currently working in the oasis, from archaeologists, anthropologists, agriculture experts and botanists."
Alfalula organised the programme alongside the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU), the Saudi governmental department overseeing the development project, and the French cultural agency Manifesto.
The cohort is likewise relatively diverse. The artists involved are Rashed AlShashai and Muhannad Shono from Saudi Arabia; French artists Sara Favriau and Laura Sellies; and two artists who live in the UAE – Syrian artist Talin Hazbar and Si Merabet.
Hazbar trained as an architect and often uses natural materials. For her work as part of this residency, she is responding to the excavations and natural crevices of the surroundings, which is still taking shape. Shono, by contrast, is known for his arresting, visually spectacular installations, such as the evocatively disturbing thick filaments of black PVC pipe that wended through Desert X AlUla in 2019.
The theme of this year’s programme is the rebirth of the oasis, and Morand says the natural environment of AlUla will remain an important part of future residencies.
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