Plastic toy gun caps glued together into sheets
100 × 150 cm
Ahmed recalls how, when he was a child, he would often play with toy guns, buying the little red caps from the local shop. Called ‘Western Gun Caps’, they could be found everywhere across Saudi Arabia. "We imitated the cowboys we saw on television – their language, their clothes, their values,” he recounts. This large-scale wall-based installation of "ten commandments", listed in Arabic and English using these plastic toy gun caps of Ahmed's youth are the appropriation of a song first performed by Gene Autry in the 40s, but also have resonances with Hadith (the recorded teachings of the Prophet Muhammad, PBUH).
The timeless character of the vagabonding cowboy is a persona present throughout Mater’s youth, seen in imported Western movies – a playful and frivolous character on the outside but with an almost inviolable moral core. For Ahmed, the cowboy is the nomad of the Western sands, much like the Bedouin is the nomad of the Eastern sands. Through this work, the artist is seeking out what unites ‘us’ (East and West) rather than what sets us apart. He makes comparisons between the language of two codes of ethics, one from the American West and one from the Islamic code referring to statements or actions found in the Hadith.
Over the course of ten years, our lives changed completely. It is a drastic change that I experience every day. The Cowboy Code is something I have thought about for years. When I was a child, the cowboy was always a symbol of freedom and adventure, an ideology that came from the West and assimilated itself into my culture. Like many of my generation, I have taken a lot from the West – the food we eat, the clothes we wear, even our language. I wanted to present this code as a way of reclaiming these qualities as opposed to purely commodity-driven influences. I want to move these compatible beliefs away from politics, away from media and give them back to the people. Ahmed Mater2012