Drawing inspiration from the Red Sea

Artist Martha Atienza (second from left) visited KAUST to explore the importance of mangroves for local communities. © KAUST 2024

King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) has embarked on a remarkable collaboration with acclaimed artist Martha Atienza, aiming to shed light on the critical role of mangrove ecosystems in supporting local communities. This collaborative effort aligns seamlessly with KAUST's commitment to sustainability and environmental conservation while fostering creativity and innovation.

Renowned for her insightful artistic expressions, Atienza visited KAUST to collaborate on an exhibition project destined for the Contemporary Art Biennale taking place in the Diriyah UNESCO World Heritage Site outside Riyadh. The project aims to underscore the significance of mangrove ecosystems for the local communities in the nearby town of Thuwal and the broader Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

"After Rain," Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale (2024), Martha Atienza, "Equation of State" (2019/2024), Courtesy of the Diriyah Biennale Foundation, photo by Alessandro Brasile.

The group embarked on an exploratory journey to Thuwal alongside some local fishermen. Together, they delved into the region's historic fishing culture, gaining firsthand insights and gathering materials crucial for Atienza's installation.

KAUST's commitment to environmental stewardship was exemplified by the donation of 40 mangrove seedlings to support Atienza's installation. These seedlings symbolize the resilience and importance of mangroves in sustaining coastal communities — an aspect central to the exhibition's narrative.

The resulting exhibition, which opened its doors on February 19 and continues to captivate audiences, showcases the culmination of Atienza's artistic vision. Through her meticulous use of gathered materials and profound insights, Atienza's installation serves as a poignant reminder of the interconnectedness between ecosystems and human communities.

This collaborative endeavor resonates deeply with KAUST's new strategy, emphasizing the institution's dedication to promoting sustainability, fostering innovation and supporting cultural initiatives. By collaborating with Atienza, KAUST not only amplifies awareness of environmental issues but also underscores the transformative power of art in advocating for positive change.