Wednesday, March 29, 2023 | Ramadan 6, 1444 H
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Continuing Oman’s ancient legacy of rock carving

Long before there was Sultanate of Oman, rock carving is already a craft practised by people who used to live within the territory. Modern Omanis especially the artists are just building on the art already mastered by their ancestors.

Artist Ahmed al Alawi discovered his love for rock carving 10 years ago attracted by how artists were able to make three-dimensional sculptures out of very hard material. The rock artists’ ability to make this material into flawless work of art has fascinated him then continues to intrigue him even today.

“Oman has been gifted with different kinds of rocks. This richness can be seen even on a quick stroll whether on beaches or mountains. These rocks come in different shapes, colours, and sizes and this diversity has inspired me to create art out of them challenging me to become innovative and a better craftsman,” Al Alawi said.

For Al Alawi, however, he just doesn’t want to make any art, he wanted to take inspiration within his own heritage and build upon the knowledge of his ancestors thankful that he is allowed to help preserve the Omani heritage and culture.

He explained that he prefers sculpturing, which is based on the formation of three-dimensional models that carry ancient craft forms such as pottery, silver jewellery, or some ancient stone shapes. Artisanal sculpture differs from other types of sculpture as it depends on the speed of production, and in most cases, the sculpture is small and easy to carry. It takes an hour to a week to produce one piece.

He pointed out that the success of any work must have clear lines and landmarks. In the field of stone sculpture, it is necessary to first determine the shape to be carved or drawn, and then choose the appropriate rocks in size and colour so that those rocks are free from defects, and high-quality equipment must be used for carving. It is necessary to provide protection tools for the eyes and face in general, such as wearing gloves for the hands and providing suction tools.

Regarding the types of rocks through which the sculptor works, he said that he has certain criteria. He wants them to be found in the environment of Oman, should be in locations where they are far from salt, and should be free from cracks or defects. Finding the proper rock is in itself a discovery and a process and once he finds the right shapes and sizes, he usually turns them into familiar shapes like pots, pieces of jewellery, ships or khanjars.

Al Alawi said that inspiration can be found anywhere and that while ancient stone carvings are rare and difficult to find, Omani museums are famous for these stone collectables.

“Sculpture is widespread in the Sultanate and in all fields such as carving on rocks, wood, metal and other various materials, as most sculptors in the Sultanate tend to prefer abstract art. It is one of the modern arts through which the artist expresses his ideas or works in innovative works,” Al Alawi said.

He added, for his work, he wants them to “shed light on some social or economic aspect.”

Al Alawi has won the Sultan Qaboos Award for Craftsmanship in the Field of Modern Industries in 2018, and the Vision Award in 2019 in the craft field and has participated in numerous forums, art fairs and events.

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