11. The Guide’s Whistle


1924 CE
1343 AH
Found in the Al Shamiyah Mountain district of Mecca Province, 2011

If I could sing on my own, what tune would I sing? It’s a question I can ask myself now that I sit here, my role transformed.

Once, I would come into being when the breath of life was blown through me. Hanging by a chain, clutched in my owner’s fingers or clipped between his teeth, hot air would course through me and I would catch a glimpse of the stars on the shoulder of his policeman’s uniform and of the marble tops of the columns in the distance. When my tune sounded, a mass of people would move in the right direction around the Ka’aba, seeking the rhythm of perpetual motion. Like a trumpet from the skies or Israfil, my first blow called all to attention, my second brought them to a standstill.

Whistle-blowers can control and hail to action the mass movement of a people, and can provoke a different pace at will, encouraging movement and drawing attention to a collective state of wonder. I am small and simple in structure, and my strength relies on one man’s gesture: the act of breathing a little harder.

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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