7. Zam Zam Cola


1953–64 CE (reign of King Saud)
1373–84 AH
Found in a vintage shop in Mecca, 2015

I am Zam Zam – the purest source of water, from God Himself. Drink of me and all is forgotten, forgiven, healed.

They say that my source was revealed to sweet Ishmael when he scratched at the earth, whilst his mother Hagar ran across the valleys of Safa and Marwah looking for water. I have flowed ever since and even though they cry ‘Zome zome’ to beg me to stop, I continue to quench the thirst of pilgrims from around the world.

More recently they have denied access; pilgrims watch me through a gate while my waters are pumped, bottled and exported for those seeking to take something sacred home.

Whilst the fallen towers have brought chaos, those that caused it may have drunk from these waters. They did not act in my name. Now the masses are scanned at the airport for liquids and bottles and yet the only thing they are still allowed to travel with is bottles of my essence, disguised in a special case to allow them through.

Imagine how far my waters have travelled, from the deserts to the mountains, Asia to Europe, multiplied, duplicated, cloned! You should see what is sold in my name now, like Zam Zam Cola – that ghastly drink. It makes me so angry that my waters have turned, making those who drink of me sick to their stomachs. ‘Zome zome’, beg me to stop and I shall not. But I beg you to stop this madness of wars and capital in the name of God.

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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