58. Holy City of Mecca Logo


c. 1970–1980s CE
c. 1390–1900s AH
Found in the Mecca Municipality offices, 2014

To understand what I am, you must first understand my main function.

Don’t be misguided: I do not sell (at least not directly), but I ‘identify’. I am used to identify Mecca. Do you identify with me? Do you see Mecca in the arches, the Ka’aba and everything below and in between? How do I stand up to other city icons, you may ask? But who cares about the others? It’s all about me. I am the centre, the keyhole to the city.

I know that I am complex, that I am an accumulation of meanings and priorities. My maker was given an impossible list to include: the Ka’aba, the city, the sun, the crest … Some of my shapes and images may not instill a sense of my true purpose, but they need to be there – for they make up the religious, political, economic and commercial strings to my eclectic bow.

The distinctive Ottoman arches of the mosque tell you immediately where you are. Next comes the symbol for the House of Saud, so you know under whose rulings you live. Then of course, the Ka’aba. Then the sun and the horizon to denote the geographical truths of my arid and inhospitable terrain. Next, and perhaps most pertinently of all, the bulldozer – a flag to those who have built their commerce on the streets and corners of this great city. Then my maker added the pharmacist, the healer. For Mecca is the healer of the soul, the one place you must go before you die.

I describe exactly all that Mecca does and is. Call me crude and simplistic, but it was the best my designer could do. I represent change and the endless possibilities that the House of Saud dictates, each generation believing its time to be the true time, the right time.

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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