c. 1990s CE
c. 1410s AH
Found in a used-car yard called the Rocket’s Market in Jeddah, 2013
I am the tuktuk of the Hajj, muttawiffy hajjaj to be precise; perhaps I’m not the most luxurious way to get about, but I like to think I’m practical. My owners brought me over from India to make sure the Indian pilgrims felt at home. Driven mostly by the motawif, I carried the elderly and disabled, squeezed into the benches in my back. Mecca is not a place to walk on foot if you’re fragile or frail. I know my way around now, could do it blind-folded, no need of the map. All I have to look for are the hotels with Indian flags hanging outside; those are for my people, the ones that I give rides to. Other countries have big buses, with beds and kitchens inside, or little wagons that can go up and down steps, taking them right up to the doors of the Grand Mosque.
I’m quite a rare sight – only one or two of us ever made it over from Mumbai. And to be honest, my owners prefer me to be kept aside for emergencies, like the one in 2006. Otherwise they all walk here, since it’s always crowded and impossible for us to move about. It’s not like Mumbai or Delhi, where people know to move out of the way. They all seem in a bit of a trance here. I wonder what it’s all about.
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 Mater2014