18. Mecca Money


1954 CE
1373 AH
Found at a coin merchant, Mecca, 2015

Mecca is your oyster. You can find most things here, from burgers at the famous Al Baik, to a room with a bed, hairpins and make-up, scent and clothes, prayer books and mats, clocks and diaries. Whatever your heart desires, you can find it in Mecca.

Mecca money: essentially that was my function, before they discontinued me. You could buy anything with me. When I say anything, I mean most things … nothing haram of course.

Yes, that’s right. God’s house has its own currency too, stamped with the Mecca logo and having the texture of Monopoly money. Of course, there’s the other currency too – the good and bad deeds, steps of the pilgrimage, steps of the Hajj. You can get yourself out of any sticky spot with those.

You can’t cash one for the other, though. No, no, no! Money won’t get you into heaven, though they say it will get you close – you only have to visit one of the Hilton or Fairmont hotel rooms to know that! Sadly, I don’t think you’d ever get enough vouchers to buy one of those. You’re best off sticking to the simple things – your basic food, bed and clothes – and then of course the Mecca memorabilia – you’ve got to prove you’ve been here after all! And once you leave, I can’t be used outside of God’s four walls, so spend me now while you can.

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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