24. Ava’s Album


c. 1940 CE
c. 1359 AH
Found in family archives of a Jeddah family, 2015

I am a life. In fact, I am several lives, over three generations packaged up into a paper-bound book.

It started with Ava. She began this book after her wedding day, filling each page with portraits of her and Ammon, a photo for each of the people she loved, from her parents to her sisters and brothers. Of course, she included his family, in particular his brother, for whom she always felt intense affection. Then came the birth of their only son, Mahmoud, dressed in white for the first year of his life, with his round face and thick hair.

Much later came the pilgrimage, following the Mahmel. You may have read about the journey from narrators of the West or from the renowned writer Rabaat Asha, but none could tell you the tale as I tell it. The tears and smiles, the love and pain, the humour. This was the journey of life after all. Grandfather had just passed away. It was a long trip overland with grandmother who was sick – no aeroplane passes for this family, who travelled by car and camel all the way to the heart of Mecca. And the climax of this tale came when they saw the site of Mecca as they walked over the crest of the final hill, the heart of the city and its Ka’aba. Whilst poor in wealth, with only a few Mecca vouchers between them, they were rich in family and love.

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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