66. Misbaha Tawaf


800 BCE
1434 AH
Bought at shop in front of the Grand Mosque, Mecca, 2013

I am the misbaha tawaf, your guide around the Ka’aba. I stop you from spinning off the orbit of your journey towards oneness, checking your magnetic draw towards perpetual motion. You are as the atoms; you behave according to science.

The beads on my string help you complete a tawaf around the Ka’aba in your search for unity and oneness. Every seventh bead keeps count of the seven heavens and the seven skies, the seven steps of the soul – from evil to the tranquil self – the seven moves from animal to spiritual life.

And yet, if we are really moving towards God, does it matter how many times we circle the Ka’aba? I’ve watched the pilgrims year on year moving in this same direction. What I know is that every atom is an extension of the next. Just as they move around the Ka’aba, so too do the stars rotate around the centre of a galaxy in orbit. To be a drop in an ocean of atoms, as people seem when they circle the Ka’aba, is to relinquish yourself as much as anything to science. There is no seventh heaven, just this: Earth, black rock, sky, stars, atoms.

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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