Art Jameel training AlUla residents to digitally record local rock art and develop heritage economy

Newsgate360 – AlUla: Art Jameel, an independent organisation that supports arts, education and heritage in the Middle East and beyond, is scaling up its efforts to build capacity for the digital documentation of heritage in AlUla, Saudi Arabia. Last year, supported by the Royal Commission for AlUla, Art Jameel and the Factum Foundation delivered the initial phase of a training programme for Jawharah Albalawi and Abdulrahim Sugair, photographers from AlUla. The training – in advanced photogrammetry, a technique used for the digital documentation of objects in three dimensions – was hosted at the Factum Foundation headquarters in Madrid, Spain.

The capacity-building programme is the latest development in the partnership between Art Jameel and the Royal Commission for AlUla, which is leading efforts to record and preserve the rich archaeological heritage of the region, especially the wealth of rock art and petroglyphs that abounds in the desert. Art Jameel, which has pioneered digital documentation techniques in Saudi Arabia, is committed to supporting the development of the Saudi heritage sector, including by helping to create job opportunities, in an emerging technical field, for residents in rural AlUla.

Albalawi and Sugair are alumni of the 2018 pilot programme by Art Jameel and the Royal Commission for AlUla that trained 15 men and women in AlUla in photogrammetry. Following the training in Madrid, Albalawi and Sugair returned to AlUla and are now set to deliver, with Art Jameel and the Factum Foundation, a further round of introductory training for local residents.

Describing her experience in Madrid, Albalawi said: “During our intensive training programme in Madrid, I learnt a lot about the practice of photogrammetry and how to apply its many aspects to the recording of heritage. I am looking forward to continuing to develop within the field, and expanding the practice of photogrammetry in AlUla for the benefit of everyone interested in contributing to the preservation of heritage in Saudi Arabia. I am grateful and thankful to our instructors, Art Jameel, the Factum Foundation and all those who contributed to my training.”

Fatima Mazeh, Senior Programme Manager (Heritage) at Art Jameel, said: “Jawharah and Abdulrahim’s progress has been dramatic. When they began the 2018 pilot programme in AlUla, they were novices to the entire concept of digital documentation of heritage. In Madrid, they have mastered advanced proficiency in a highly technical discipline that is vital to the work of heritage preservation and documentation in Saudi Arabia.”

“As we return to AlUla to begin another round of training for local residents in AlUla, which Jawharah and Abdulrahim will lead, we are seeing the creation of the first pool of Saudi photogrammetrists, who will be able to lead the recording of the heritage of their country,” she added.

AlUla is home to rich archeological sites dating back over 2,000 years to the Dadanite and Nabataean kingdoms. Hegra (Madain Saleh) is Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the most well-known landmark in the AlUla region, with over 100 well preserved tomb facades and many ancient carvings throughout the 52-hectare ancient site.

At the heart of Art Jameel’s philosophy are its efforts to support local communities and to combine traditional approaches with emerging technologies. Its work with the preservation of heritage in AlUla complements the organisation’s programming in Cairo and Jeddah through the Jameel House of Traditional Arts in Jeddah, Project Space Art Jameel in Jeddah, the Jameel House of Traditional Arts in Cairo, and Atelier Cairo Art Jameel which offer a number of training programmes as well as other cultural and art initiatives and opportunities across the region.

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