INTRODUCTION: A French painter who decided to pain the Sinai desert has provoked a major controversy among international conservation groups.
GV PAN FROM St. Catherine's Monastery (MUTE)
GV Mountains (MUTE)
SV Artist Jean Verame speaking in French
GV Painter spraying mountain with blue paint (3 shots)
GV Birds flying and landing on mountain (2 shots)
GV PAN ALONG Mountains
GV Blue painted section of mountain (4 shots)
GV Mountains and grove of trees and other mountains (2 shots)
GV Tribesmen on camels rising past blue painted mountain
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Background: INTRODUCTION: A French painter who decided to pain the Sinai desert has provoked a major controversy among international conservation groups. The artist Jean Verame decided to paint an area covered by about 70,000 square feet (6,600 square metres) of rock in the Sinai desert in the name of conceptual art, but conservationists have described the painting as a grotesque eyesore and are seeking to have it removed.
SYNOPSIS: The French artist set off to the Sinai desert to an area near St. Catherine's Monastery last October. Equipped with 13 tonnes of blue, black, red and yellow paint and the official authorisation of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat he sought to transform the desert. Mr. Verame claims he is a nature-lover and calls his work the Sinai Peace Junction. In response to criticism from conservationists, he has said that he has not destroyed anything -- merely added a human dimension by adding colour.
Armed with a pain compressor, a pick-up truck, several tubs of acrylic paint and some Egyptian assistants Mr. Verame has been painting his remote canvas for over two months. The eye, used to long vistas dominated by subtle tones ranging from tan to rose in the desert mountains, is first riveted to ten bright blue boulders, then other sections leap into sight.
The valley called Bir Nafach is about three miles (5 kilometres) from Mount Sinai, which is traditionally held to be the place where Moses received the Ten Commandments. Both Moslems and Christians consider the area to be sacred and Greek Orthodox monks have maintained a monastery at the foot of the mountain since the sixth century.
Religious aesthetes and conservationists have expressed their opposition to the painting and are mobilising pressure on Egypt to withdraw its support for the project. A multinational oil company has already offered a free supply of solvents to return the Sinai boulders to their original hue.
Mr. Gerard Mathews visited the area in December to report back to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. He described the area as an ecological and aesthetic nightmare, and went on to say that what was once a magnificent wilderness had become a grotesque eyesore.