30. The Pilgrim’s Pass


1944 CE
1363 AH
Found within the documents of a Yemeni family living in Mecca, 2012

I, a hand-written pass for a Yemeni to visit Mecca, am rare these days. My inks have run and my colours faded, but you can still see, clearly stated, that I allow this person into Saudi, and into Mecca.

Everyone must receive Hajj permission to leave their country and travel to Mecca. But now, a wall over 1,000 miles long and more than 3 meters high is being built through the empty quarter between the kingdom and Yemen. You would think that the Rub Al Khali desert would be enough: even the wisest of shepherds cannot hold his own there. There are rumours these days that weapons, drugs and illegals come through this way, and all must be barred entry.

When I was first issued, there was no fear of bombs or the like, but the worry for the Yemeni was how to stay in Mecca once they’d arrived. Much like the Burmawi, they had to watch out: some certainly did not consider them welcome.

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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