26. The Green Thread


c. 623 CE
c. 1 AH
Found in the factory where the Kiswah is made, Mecca, 2012

I am a piece of thread. Each little stitch of my green takes me closer to the end; each is a step in the right direction. I will be a tapestry, a landscape, filling in shades with my deep, glistening green. Watch as I spin and pin and needle my way in and out of the black cloth, building up to my crescendo. It takes twenty-seven men, their hands worn and sore from stitching with thick needles, to master my beauty. With every stitch I bind one more person to another, their histories inextricably linked. I am the fabric that weaves you all together, holding you tightly, knotted one to the other. Your memories, imaginings, hopes and dreams, your prayers, your whims, your hates and loves, your rituals all hidden, a luscious green, a scented fungus, beneath the veil of black and darkness and the inner fabric of the purest white. Like you, I sit so close to it and yet have never seen the stone. For I am the hidden machinations, the work behind the scenes.

I am for the Kiswah. I am what you touch to feel closer to the centre. People try to hold me and kiss me, for I am the inner sanctuary. I am what is inside. There was a time when I would be brought from Egypt on the pilgrimage of the Mahmel from Cairo. But now, anything that harks back to the Ottomans must be destroyed, for our story is now and this site is the only place for worship. Of all the relics, temples and sites, I am the last, perhaps because I can never be demolished, with my yearly renewal buying me time.

My stitching, too, is endless, timeless. For every Hajj, when I am completed, they undress the Ka’aba of my predecessor, the keeper of that year’s stories, and replace it with a new script, a new teller of your fortunes. I am then cut up into smaller pieces and spread across the globe, finding homes in the most important of houses. But do not worry, for I still belong to you, my people. You live within these tapestries, with all your toil and grit, spirit and will.

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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