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Denis Kleine's Arabian Adventure

Selkirk College Instructor Helps Bring 1001 Arabian Nights to Life

 

It’s the world’s biggest sand sculpture project, but Mother Nature almost destroyed it before it could come to life.

Earlier this winter Selkirk College instructor Denis Kleine was part of an international effort that brought more than 60 sand sculptors to Kuwait City to build a massive temporary theme park called 1001 Arabian Nights. Representing 24 countries, the task of the world’s elite sand artists was to create almost 80 sculptures as part of the Remal International Sand and Light Festival.

Denis Kleine in Kuwait

Selkirk College Kootenay Studio Arts casting instructor Denis Kleine (middle) worked on this sand sculpture of a large underwater scene with artists from Ghana and Syria. The professional artist also worked on several other pieces in the 1001 Arabian Nights temporary amusement park that is the largest sand sculpture project ever put together.

Two weeks into the project an unusual rain storm hit the Arabian Peninsula, dumping three times the amount of average monthly rainfall in one afternoon.

“After it stopped we walked out and it was a lake… it was a disaster,” says Kleine. “It was so disheartening for everybody to have to go back in and recreate something that will never be the same. But we did it and in the end we saved it.”

Opportunity of Lifetime

Kleine first heard about the monumental Middle East project this past summer. Victoria-based designer Damon Langlois—one of Kleine’s friends in the sand sculpture world—was heading up a project hosted by Kuwait’s technology industry and was looking for the planet’s most talented sculptors.

Denis Kleine in Kuwait two

The prospect of creating detailed sculptures out of 30,000 tonnes of sand in a part of the world the well-traveled Kootenay Studio Arts casting instructor had never been was exciting. He quickly signed on.

The 1001 Arabian Nights project is located in the middle of Kuwait City and occupies an area the size of four soccer fields, or about 28,000 square metres. After several weeks of preparation work done prior to the arrival of the 65-person sculpture team, it took seven weeks to build.

Some of the creations were almost 15 metres high (49 feet) and the design work was elaborate. At the direction of Langlois, the sculptors would set to work on pre-designed pieces, usually in teams of two and three people. Though the sculptures were specific to the overall theme, Kleine said there were opportunities for creative freedom within the individual pieces.

After the sculptors were finished a crew came in to light the area, lay down paving stones and add water features. A restaurant area was added, a children’s maze created and performance space included in the final layout. The Remal International Sand and Light Festival is scheduled to open later this month and is expected to attract visitors until April.

You can read more about Kleine's adventure at selkirk.ca.

 

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