10. Stone Symbols


622 CE
1 AH
Found on demolition site, interior of Grand Mosque, 2012

At certain times, old Burton with his tales of Mahmel describes things very well. He was greatly impressed by the columns and grandeur of the Royal Palace.

He says that on crossing the threshold he entered a vast quadrangle, with broad colonnades and a series of slender columns that rose to about 30 feet. There, between the arches, were seven minarets with marble domes and more columns upon columns topped with ballasts such as I.

I wonder whether, if I had been made a bit bigger, they would not have been able to dismantle me as easily as they did in the big destruction of 2014. But perhaps they needed to rid the site of me, for the old buildings hold memories and bear witness to events that are rather sinister.

I reflect the form of many things, from bullets to bells, helmets to windows bearing images that hail from the East, and even the Snapchat logo. I form part of old Mecca, simple but grand, just as Burton describes it. I am now a relic, sitting here, a hint to a history that no longer exists – an imagined past, perhaps a dreamed Utopia, an Atlantis, a Babylon, an ancient land of which there is no recording except me. For I am still here. I exist, with a past, a present and a future. I will tell you now, as the Guide’s Whistle and Medal will confirm, that things have not always been as they are now.

This work transcends the objects. Ultimately, what I’m working with isn’t only the artefacts themselves, but the stories attached to them. For me, each tale is the manifestation of the object, and each object is a tangible materialisation of an underlying narrative. The work finds its equilibrium somewhere between the stories and chronology they’re chaptered into, the objects becoming knots or points along the timeline, woven into stories as part of the language of this artwork. Each story draws out a tale that intends to trigger imagination and memory, mixing fact with fiction, with the ultimate aim of straddling, conflating and confusing fixed notions of history to open up the unofficial histories that shape the character of place and memory.
Ahmed Mater
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