13. National Geographic Magazines


1917 and 1953 CE
1335 and 1373 AH
Found in an antique book shop in Mecca, 2013

Once in 1917 and again in 1953, I, the respected National Geographic, spoke of Mecca. What a place of darkness and beguilement! Oh, the dangers of the pilgrimage, the arduous twenty-hour journey by camel, and the strange customs you might encounter! I try to give as much detail as possible, but I’ll always miss something, I’m sure. It’s hard to understand the minds of the East. It’s also hard to witness the poverty and savagery, the arid landscapes and insurmountable mountains.

That said, I do try to paint a pretty picture nonetheless. It is, after all, an exotic and mysterious place of sands, belly dancers, pipes and harems.

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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