The iconic Elephant Rock at AlUla.
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) and the French Agency for AlUla Development (Afalula) have announced the last artist residency of the 2022/2023 season. It takes place through June 14. RCU is a Saudi commission established in 2017 to preserve and develop the 2,000-year-old archaeological and historical site of AlUla in north-western Saudi Arabia.
Afalula is the French agency for the development of AlUla. Its mission is to support its Saudi partner RCU to transform the AlUla region into a worldwide cultural and touristic destination. As with other residencies, RCU has selected two artists and a curator from a wider group of applicants. The artists for this edition are Hashel Al Lamki and Qamar Abdulmalik, and the first curator in residency is Maryam Bilal.
Hashel Al Lamki (b. 1986) is a versatile artist from the United Arab Emirates; his art delves into the intricate relationship between humankind and the environment, both wild and man-made. Born in the shadow of the monumental Jebel Hafeet mountain in Al Ain, Al Lamki has witnessed the complex social dynamics that followed exponential development in the Gulf. Al Ain’s Bedouin culture and distinct social values, its archaeological sites and rugged terrain, formed a stark contrast to the rapid industrial and architectural growth he observed in the neighbouring emirates.
He received his BFA from Parsons School of Design/The New School, New York City, and has worked in disaster-stricken Guatemala and Haiti and with low social income communities in the US. He was awarded the Salama bint Hamdan Emerging Artists Fellowship, and later joined forces with artists in the UAE to establish Bait 15, a community centred around contemporary art in the Emirates. Al Lamki’s compositions survey shifts in the ecosystem, tracing stories of human migration, climate change, colonisation and evolution.
Qamar Abdulmalik (b. 1993, Khobar), is a multi-talented artist of Palestinian descent based in Riyadh. She uses various art forms such as collage, video art and new media, to create her installations. Drawing from her personal experiences as a Palestinian refugee, she attempts to shed light on the struggles of Arab diasporas affected by global systems and the everyday life of undocumented immigrants.
She has exhibited at Art Jameel Photography award-AJPA (2016); Live demo (Jeddah, 2017), EpicenterX (2017, Detroit) and Firetti Contemporary (2022, Dubai), among other places. Saudi curator Maryam Bilal is passionate about experimenting with exhibition-making models that are collaborative and interactive in nature. She focuses on the fast-emerging and vibrant Saudi art scene, and her work explores the impact of art imperatives in the region.
An independent curator who is based in Naarm/Melbourne, Australia and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, since 2010, she has worked closely with Saudi contemporary artists and institutions. She began her arts career as an Outreach Coordinator for Edge of Arabia in 2010, organising programmes, tours and workshops to raise awareness on contemporary Saudi art in Riyadh and Jeddah. Daniah Al Saleh, a former resident artist recalled that “AlUla became a cherished haven, where my creativity flourished, leaving an ingrained mark on my artistic journey”. Mohammad Alfaraj, also a previous resident, said that “the residency programme is very rich and the place itself is creatively charged. Time, memory and human traces are in front of you in AlUla …” M’hammed Kilito, who was resident said that AlUla “is a place where inspiration never stops.”
The works produced during the current residency will be, as is the case, created in dialogue with AlUla’s natural and cultural landscape. The residency programme also sees the launch of the first three apartments of the new permanent artist residency accommodation in AlJadidah – the region’s design district. Launching the new permanent accommodation represents a significant statement of intent for the AlUla Artist Residency.
The location in AlJadidah helps tie the programme more closely into the programming, enabling artists to live among the AlUla community, the centre of their activations and events. Arts AlUla works alongside local and global cultural communities to foster greater understanding and cross-cultural connections and trains a new generation of arts professionals and creatives in Saudi Arabia.
“Experiencing AlUla is life-changing for people and the residencies have had an incredible impact on the careers of the artists to date. Artists want to come here to work, and to develop their careers …”, said Ali Alghazzawi, Arts & Creative Opportunities Lead at RCU. “The residencies serve as a laboratory on how artists meaningfully integrate and engage, and are tributes to the growing fame of AlUla as an inspirational place,” said Sophie Makariou, Culture & Heritage Director, and Arnaud Morand, Head of Arts & Innovation, French Agency for AlUla Development (Afalula) .
RCU’s mandate is to preserve and develop AlUla, a region of outstanding natural and cultural significance. The plan involves a sensitive approach to urban and economic development that preserves the area’s natural and historic heritage, while establishing AlUla as a desirable location to live, work, and visit.
It encompasses a range of initiatives across archaeology, tourism, culture, education, and the arts, including economic diversification, local community empowerment and heritage preservation, which are the priorities of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 programme. The French Agency for AlUla Development (Afalula) was founded in Paris in 2018 following an intergovernmental agreement signed by France and Saudi Arabia that year.The agency’s mission is to mobilise French knowledge and expertise and to gather the best operators and companies in the fields of archaeology, museography, architecture, environment, tourism, hospitality, infrastructure, education, security, agriculture and botany, for the sustainable management of natural resources.
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