Sand does not make a distinction or cares about where the bare feet of the people who walk on it come from. And the waves that break on the shore speak a language that everyone can understand, no matter what their mother tongue is. All differences are washed away by the gentle breeze and the white foam, at least for a moment. That is why Gran Canaria displays its Christmas spirit on the beach, by recreating an ephemeral Sand Nativity Scene that carries a universal and timeless message.
The hands of ten artists from eight different countries have given body and soul to the Sand Nativity Scene at Las Canteras, which is the only one of its kind in the world at this time of year. It has definitely become an event not to be missed during the Holiday season since 2006. This initiative is also a symbol of the human capacity to come together, to create beauty and to show solidarity, this year particularly towards the people of our neighbouring island of La Palma due to the eruption of the volcano.
The Sand Nativity Scene turns the myth of the Tower of Babel on its head, managing to successfully create a work of art that receives more than 200,000 visitors each year. The artists who have sculpted the golden sand of Las Canteras beach have come from places as different as Canada, Ireland, the United States, Holland, France, Latvia, Portugal and the Canary Islands. Nevertheless, for weeks they have used the universal language of art to communicate with each other and thus create this work of art that occupies 1,500 square metres and which required 2,000 tonnes of sand to be moved and many more tonnes of talent and dedication.
This year’s proposal is even more full of life and symbolism, as the almost newborn baby of Latvian artist Sanita Ravina, who is the author of the sculpture representing banana cultivation, served as a model for the Baby Jesus depicted in this Sand Nativity Scene. Our walk starts in front of the scenes representing traditional pottery, shepherding and cheese making in Gran Canaria, created by Portuguese artist Rodrigo César de Magalhaes and Dutch artist Johannes Christolfel.
The central scene of the Annunciation is the work of Irish artist Fergus Mulvany and the scenes of The Nativity, and the Adoration of the Magi are the work of Canadian artist Karen Jean Fralich and American artist Sue Mac Greu. Guy-Oliver Devenueau, also Canadian, left his mark by paying tribute to the students and teachers who lost their schools to the lava in the volcanic eruption on the island of La Palma.
Canarian artists Paco Arana and Bentejuí Ojeda have also contributed to this sand universe with The Fountain, located in one of the main central areas of the Sand Nativity Scene. Finally, as every year, the Nativity Scene features a sand replica of one of the most emblematic buildings in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. This year we can see the Alfredo Kraus Auditorium, which was sculpted by French artist Benoit Dutherage.
It is quite extraordinary. Each year, artists from different places arrive on the coast of Gran Canaria united by the same purpose: to pour their art and their hearts onto the sandy beach of Las Canteras, while people of all ages stroll around or go in and out of the water, just a few metres away from this work of art, a sort of sand dune that grows and moves, blown by the Christmas wind. It is the call of the Nativity.
The lights of the Nativity Scene and the Christmas tree on Las Canteras beach promenade shine bright, far beyond the city’s bay, thanks to the tens of thousands of people sharing their pictures on social networks, and also thanks to the media coverage, including foreign media such as The Times, CNN or the National Geographic magazine, reporting on this different, warm Christmas, made of mountains of gold crystals that sparkle in the sun, where snow has been replaced by the sea foam of the Atlantic.
Opening dates: From 3 December 2021 to 7 January 2022
General opening hours: from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Days with special opnening hours: 24th and 31st December and 5th January, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Location: Plaza de Saulo Torón, Las Canteras Beach (in the area known as La Puntilla)
Donations will be distributed to soup kitchens around the city.