67. Undercurrents


1987 CE
1407 AH
Collected by the artist since 2008

We are a collection of films, videos and reports – each of us describing one particular day in Mecca.

It was 31 July 1987 when the massacre broke out. Not one of us can tell you the number of people hurt or killed. But this movement, this rebellion, had been long in coming. Since 1981, the Iranian pilgrims had gathered here and there for demonstrations during the Hajj against Israel and the United States. But this year, the officials blocked them off. What did they expect? The demonstrations went from peaceful to bloody in a matter of minutes and then the deadly stampede began, pilgrim on pilgrim.

This event had been coming ever since the Sunni took it upon themselves to destroy Shia sites, long ago when Saudi was formed under a pact between Ibn Saud and Al-Wahhab.

We are the visual records, proof and documentation. We hold interviews with some of the perpetrators, explaining their plight, asking who has the right to assume power over such important sites. We show the deaths and the people wailing for their loved ones. And we show the crowds of 1989 carrying the corpse of Ruhollah Mostafavi Moosavi Khomeini, the Iranian leader, revolutionist, who had maintained power by executing his opposition in their tens of thousands.

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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