Filipino artist Nathaniel Alapide pays homage to Saadiyat Island’s wildlife conservation

Temporary work of sand art depicts aspects of the Abu Dhabi island's natural environment

The meticulously designed sand creation showcases Saadiyat Island's most significant features. Photo: Saadiyat Island
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Sand artist Nathaniel Alapide has collaborated with Saadiyat Island to create a temporary work of art at the Saadiyat Rotana Resort and Villas beach.

The large-scale sand art pays homage to Saadiyat Island's identifiable features and its dedication to wildlife conservation.

Within the meticulously designed creation, Alapide has recreated Louvre Abu Dhabi’s recognisable dome, forming the upper portion of the frame and the circular composition of the sand work. Beneath the dome, sea turtles and dolphins swim over moving waves, while a gazelle stands on a patch of grass in the foreground, with sand dunes illustrated behind.

“Collaborating with Saadiyat Island was truly enriching, and I genuinely admire their visionary commitment to wildlife conservation,” Alapide tells The National.

“It’s a powerful message that resonates, especially for the younger generations.”

The piece also features a figure playing golf, a nod to Saadiyat's golf courses and a means of conveying the concept of coexistence between nature and leisure.

Over the years, Saadiyat Island has implemented a number of initiatives to preserve and protect the natural environment of the island and its inhabitants. These include turtle conservation, dugong protection, preserving the environment for the native Red Arabian foxes and peacocks, along with other eco-conscious initiatives such as reducing the use of plastic and segregating waste.

The work of public art measures 15 x 15 metres and took Alapide 48 hours to complete using a rake, a set of strings and water. The black sections consist of small pieces of gravel dampened with water to give them a darker hue, adding a sense of space to the work.

Initially starting out with sketches, Alapide planned the work on paper before taking to the sand and was thoughtful in his inclusion of environmental elements from Saadiyat Island.

Alapide began creating sand art in 2014, after the death of his grandmother in the Philippines. As a tribute to her, Alapide drew a huge tree at Jumeirah beach in Dubai.

Alapide told The National in 2020 that he found the process of creating sand art to be meditative, immediate and communal with nature, due to his use of found elements.

“When I do that, I feel connected to something that is bigger than myself,” he told The National at the time.

“When I create, it feels like the physical part of me is dissolved and it’s pure consciousness.”

Since 2014, Alapide has created large artworks, including recreations of President Sheikh Mohamed and Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa on beaches and dunes, and has collaborated with brands such as Burberry, adidas and Manchester City Football Club.

The temporal element of Alapide’s work adds to the unique concept of his practice, meaning the public can interact with it. The piece at Saadiyat Rotana Resort and Villas beach, should last for another week or more he says, depending on the weather.

Alapide hopes that with all his work, and particularly his latest piece, the public will walk away with a more mindful perspective of their environment.

“I want viewers to discover and appreciate what Saadiyat holds on this stunning island, and I wish for them to contemplate, be more mindful of the world around them,” he says.

“The natural world offers abundant experiences and unparalleled beauty waiting to be discovered.”

Updated: December 29, 2023, 8:32 AM