56. The Speaker


c. 1970s CE
c. 1390s AH
Found on demolition site in Mecca, 2011

Beautiful voices have passed through me time and again over the last forty years. Some of them clashed, others harmonised perfectly. I have called the prayer so many times I cannot count. I have read extracts from every page of the Qu’ran at least 100 times over. Now, I’ve been abandoned for a new model that can be heard at 9 kilometres’ distance and blinks with green and white lights that can be seen as far as 30 kilometres away. Even the deaf are kept in touch.

I may not call as loudly as the 4,000 speakers they’re replacing me with, but I do still have a voice. I feel justified in getting out the important things I’ve been waiting to say, for I am a speaker after all. Now that I’m free, I can speak of all the things I saw but never told anyone about.

When the siege took place, I couldn’t call out, silenced by the gunshots, silenced by the quiet after forty men were rendered unconscious. When the many died on the bridge, I wept in prayer, but I didn’t make a peep.

They think that this removal of the old replaces hard histories with something new, but not everyone wants to forget – for the voices of the people who sang through these speakers harnessed a beauty never to be relived or retold.

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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