David Popa's striking 'vanishing artwork' guards ancient tomb in Hegra

US creative commissioned as part of AlUla's latest heritage conservation campaign

Protective hands surround the monolithic Tomb of Lihyan, Son of Kuza. Photo: Royal Commission for AlUla
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American land artist David Popa has created a giant artwork, his largest to date, in the archaeological site of Hegra in AlUla.

The artwork, which takes the shape of two protective hands, surrounds the Tomb of Lihyan, Son of Kuza. Constructed using only natural elements, including yellow earth from Europe and red earth from the Middle East, the "vanishing artwork" is designed to disintegrate in weeks.

The Royal Commission commissioned the work for AlUla to kickstart its latest heritage conservation campaign called I Care.

"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 programme to take on guardianship of this invaluable heritage," Popa said.

Designated a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2008, Hegra is known as Al Hijr in Arabic. The area is marked by a stunning array of 111 monumental tombs, carved into the sandstone mountains, 94 of which are adorned with elaborate decorations.

Besides Hegra, the ancient city of AlUla is also home to Dadan, which was the capital of the Dadanite and Lihyanite kingdoms; the Jabal Ikmah open-air library, whose ancient inscriptions are now included in Unesco's Memory of the World Register; and AlUla Old Town.

Launched on Thursday, the I Care campaign will shine a light on many of the AlUla's ongoing heritage protection projects, the commission said.

The commission will also provide schools with comprehensive toolkits to educate youngsters and their teachers through workshops focusing on the importance of heritage protection and how landmarks connect with the community stories, life and traditions. It will also host school visits and community activities across AlUla.

"RCU is focused on raising people’s awareness of the need to engage with conservation efforts through the campaign," said Abdulrahman Alsuhaibani, executive director of archaeology, conservation and collections at the commission. "This will help to deepen RCU’s connection with our community as we work towards a common, shared, and inclusive purpose – to protect and celebrate our heritage so it can be enjoyed for generations to come.”

Updated: February 02, 2024, 1:10 PM