37. The Fort of Jiyad


c. 1780 CE
c. 1193 AH
Found in a Mecca antique shop, 2013

You might assume that I am just some tourist tat, a simple tea tray. But look closely at the image painted on me. Can you see there the Ajyad Fortress, now demolished? What histories it held, from its construction in 1780 to becoming the stronghold of the Ottomans in the battles of 1916. Oh how right were its creators to predict that a structure had to be built to protect the Ka’aba and Islamic shrines from rebels, bandits and invaders, not to mention Wahhabi radicals! But the Fortress would later be levelled by the religious leaders of Saudi, the Muslim World League.

I often wonder whether, like the Fortress, once my services are no longer required I too will be returned to the fire in which I was cast.

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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