49. Mecca to Makkah


1979 CE
1400 AH
Donated by Doctor Meraj Mirza, 2011

It is but a word: Makkah or Mecca. They changed it in 1979. It’s simple to see why, although there are different points of view.

Some say it was changed because how could trashy bingo halls, gambling rooms or nightclubs equate with the holy place? Some argue that if we do not like it when our own name is misspelled or mispronounced, how can we then allow the same thing to be done to any of our most important icons? But others are not so bothered, desecrating the name for their business concerns: Motor Mecca, Mecca Group, Mecca Cola.

Here am I, the Al Jazeera, presenting an argument on paper. We want to make sure that we use the word correctly. We wouldn’t want to get into any kind of trouble and we’ve been told quite directly that Muslims have a duty to be vigilant and decisive in acting against anything that may be deemed sacrilegious, blasphemous or disrespectful to Islam or Muslims. They say that every town, city, province, country should have a dedicated and committed group of people to fulfill this important ‘watch-dog’ role for the sake of the Ummah and Islam. If not, the heavens will take matters into their own hands, as they did with the British Zam Zam ship.

We wonder, who is our allocated watch-dog or spy? Who is keeping us close and under their watchful eye?

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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