Dubai: As Queen Elizabeth II is being laid to her final resting place today, a Dubai-based Filipino sand artist has created a portrait of the longest serving British monarch in her youth on UAE shores.
With a garden rake as his drawing tool and the white sands of Pacific Al Marjan Island in Ras Al Khaimah as his canvas, Nathaniel Alapide created a 15metre X 8metre portrait of a young Queen Elizabeth II over the weekend.
“It was my way of paying respect to someone who the British and many people around the world have looked up to, and the Queen has also reminded me of my late grandmother, who inspired me to become an artist,” Alapide told Gulf News.
It took two hours work for Alapide to finish the sand art. He woke up at dawn and checked the tide forecast before starting his artwork on the beach.
Tide was high at the time and the waves immediately eroded a portion of the portrait a few hours after he finished it. But Alapide said it was the “impermanence of his art that made it really special. The artwork is fleeting but always gratifying. It is the process of creating sand art – not just the final output – that makes it special. The message is that you really have to be there in the moment to enjoy it,” said Alapide, adding: “The tide takes it away but you can do another work of art the following day.”
From UAE shores to River Thames
“Before I made the sand art, I read in the news about tens of thousands of people coming from various parts of the world lining up in queues along the River Thames to pay their respect to Queen Elizabeth II. So, I thought to myself to make my own tribute here from the beach in Ras Al Khaimah. As people were camping to catch a glimpse of the Queen at Westminster Abbey, I was doing sand art here and contemplating why people loved her so much,” he added.
Tribute to grandmother
Alapide continued: “I created the sand art because the Queen Elizabeth II also reminded me of my grandmother. The sand art was my tribute to the queen and my own grandmother. Making it was also meditative.”
Alapide, who is originally from Antipolo, a known artists’ haven in the Philippines, said it was grief and his quest to seek solace that led him to create his first sand art in Dubai back in 2014, when his grandmother passed way.
“My grandmother raised me,” said Alapide, adding: “So, I grabbed a rake and headed to the public beach in Jumeirah and started sketching on the sand. I made a big drawing of a tree and while I was creating that, I found it very meditative. The tree was very symbolic of my grandmother’s nature of giving. It took me three hours to complete my first sand art. The result surprised me and me doing sand art all started from there.”
World record holder
Alapide’s art has brought him various recognitions. Early this year, he was awarded the Guinness World Record for creating the world’s largest sand image. The sand art, commissioned by Abu Dhabi Sports Aviation Club (ADSAC), covered an area of more than 250,000 feet and was made as a tribute to the Founding Father of the UAE Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and the leaders of the country.
In 2019, Alapide also created a 4x6-metre artwork resembling Hazzaa AlMansoori, the first Emirati astronaut, before his trip to the International Space Station (ISS). The artwork showed Hazzaa wearing a Sokol spacesuit and flashing the three-finger salute, popularised by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, symbolising win, love and victory.
In February last year, he created a 30x40-metre sand art featuring Hope Probe entering the Mars orbit. Prior to that, he wished Emirates Mars Mission bon voyage with a 15x30-metre sand mural before it was launched from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Centre in July 2020.
Alapide has done countless sand arts, some larger-than-life recreations of famous paintings, including one of Mona Lisa, while some were commissioned by big brands, including Nike, Burberry, and design company Palmwood. He previously worked as a resident sand artist at two luxury hotels in Dubai but is now doing freelance work.