71. The inquisitor


2011 CE
1432 AH
Papers issued to the artist for access to Mecca, 2011

I am a piece of paper. I am official and I come from the government. I am all about facts – good, clean, honest facts.

They write on my skin in thin black ink the name of Ahmed Mater. He is a photographer, it seems, the official Mecca photographer, and needs a pass to all areas, to photograph the city. Here is his ID number to avoid any confusion.

Once, I asked the photographer some questions.

Who are you?

I am an artist and my name is Ahmed Mater.

Why are you here?

I am here to photograph Mecca.

What gives you the right to photograph the holy city of Mecca?

Call it presumption, call it avidity. For me it is my calling.

Do you not know what misfortune this might bring?

Yes, this is my life’s lesson. But this place is what I must learn. For there are waters stirring, and the city, it spins and churns, changes and mutates and I cannot stand still by the edge and not dip myself in.

Why Mecca? Every city changes, every country looks to progress. Why not choose another?

I have a passion to enter this place. What was once my sanctuary is now the tapestry I unpick, stitch by stitch. No matter how many times I return to this place, or how many layers the bulldozers raze, I still haven’t reached the inner chamber. I do this out of love. I do this to preserve, to nurture, to reconcile with our loss. This is about life and mortality, time and space. For Mecca is the road home for all our people. The place we come back to. The place we go to in order to find some sort of peace and respite. Is this, what you see around you, is it still the road home or are we losing our way?

Why are you afraid?

I am questioning the future. But at the same time the past. I am questioning truth. All that has been taught to me and the people around me – who wrote this down? Who decided that this was the accurate and truthful version of our history, our shared heritage? With one magnet, you can realign the oceans, the seas, every filament of our being. Where is this truth within these histories and who is governing this magnet? Where is the truth of our human nature? Are we conditioned to align or is this our calling? When all the walls are ripped down and new ones constructed, where do our spirits exist? Or do these histories, these narratives, disappear with the rubble?

Perhaps you fear change my child, for in all science lies change. Would you say you are here to seek out your religion?


Would you say you believe in the demons and the heavens they all speak of?


What do you believe in?

I believe in the spiritual, but above all, in science.

So while I am the Inquisitor, he has overtaken me, seeking out unspoken truths from this city, the truths that break the rules.

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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