Saudi women transform 12,000 plastic bags into environmental art installation

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A group of women in Saudi Arabia have transformed an area in AlUla into a huge art installation using 12,000 repurposed plastic bags to raise awareness about the environment and carbon emission.

The project, called ‘AlWadi’, has seen a group of 55 artisans collect thousands of plastic bags that have been discarded in the kingdom and transform the non-biodegradable bags – which can take up to 2000 years to completely decompose – into a colorful art project in AlUla; home to key heritage sites in the Kingdom.

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The project was led by Kees Chic – and environmentally-friendly Saudi Arabia brand founded by the environmental entrepreneur Diana Rayan – in collaboration with Royal Commission for AIUla (RCU).

The brand focuses on boosting a sustainable environment by helping to collect disposable shopping bags that harm the urban spaces, animals, marine life and air quality.

The brand works with artisans to transform discarded plastic bags into plastic threads and reusing them in lifestyle products or artwork.

A group of 55 artisans in Saudi repurposed thousands of plastic bags to make the colorful art installation at Saudi’s AlUla. (Photo: Supplied)
A group of 55 artisans in Saudi repurposed thousands of plastic bags to make the colorful art installation at Saudi’s AlUla. (Photo: Supplied)

It is, says Rayan, promoting “upcycling, rather than just recycling.”

“We have collected 12,000 plastic bags from nature, transformed them into threads then crocheted and upcycled. The artwork saves 400kg of carbon dioxide.”

The artwork depicts the eight-pointed star; an important part of Muslim iconography

“This was crafted by 55 marginalized talented artisans and installed in Al-Wadi as a reminder of the importance of social and economic development and of protecting AlUla’s precious environment,” said Rayan.

“The RCU approached us to deliver this project in Al Ula City at the Orange Path & AlWadi area.”

“Visitors pass by this area either by walking, driving a car or cycling so RCU thought of yarnboming over these trees to beautify the path.”

Rayan said the RCU learned of Kees Chic’s work and approached the group to beautify the area – with also an environmental message.

The art installation aims to highlight the use of plastic bags and the importance of sustaining healthy environments (Photo: Supplied)
The art installation aims to highlight the use of plastic bags and the importance of sustaining healthy environments (Photo: Supplied)

“Firstly, about 12,000 plastic bags have been rescued to save the environment from its pollution and have been given another job.”

“The plastic bags were cleaned, cut into threads, and with crochet craft they were turned into stunning art pieces to act like decorative agents to keep the nature clean with less CO2 emissions that comes out of using new materials.”

The project was also aimed at empowering local artisans, many who have come from unprivileged backgrounds.

“When we think of all great art installations, we tend to believe they are made by best educated artists, well invested in talent, probably went to the best art school, or have a support system,” said Rayan. “Yet, there are a lot of people out there who lack the opportunity to share their talent, express their feelings or even invest in their skills."

“The women we work with are extremely talented yet could not go to school because their families don’t believe in school, or because they, as a family, did not have the chance to go to school, so they believe the children must follow, and many other reasons that don’t allow them to leave their houses and so they live with it and neglect their talent."

“We (at Kees Chic) search for such talents to invest in their skills through training them on up-cycling techniques, provide them with raw materials, designs, tools and online learning channels so they can work from their houses yet feel productive, grow and gain self-esteem.”

The project also helps promote brands that are made in Saudi, said Rayan.

“This project is far more than just beautiful pieces on trees.”

Rayan added: “Upcycling is essential in all countries in the world.”

“With every country that has a life running in it, there is waste generated. It is a complete cycle that we need to consider while thinking of waste all the way from beginning since it was a raw material transformed into a product.”

“We are living in a materialist and a high consumption era where we produce more than our needs without considering what will happen to that production once we are done with it.”

Kees Chic already has further projects in the pipeline, including an installation entitled ‘The Tent’ to be built in Jeddah City – with the group hoping to break a world record with their attempt.

About 100 artisans plan to transform 100k plastic bags into an Islamic-inspired geometrical piece of artwork.

“We are mainly looking for a sponsor to cover the cost of execution so we can start,” said Rayan.

“With this, we are hoping for a chance to be registered at the World Guinness Records for the first time in history.”

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