All Roads Lead to Makkah
Eiwan Al Gassar Gallery has brought together 30 artists from 12 countries – Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Iran, Bangladesh, Sudan, Tunisia, and the United Kingdom – in an exhibition titled Road to Makkah curated by Bachir Mohammad.
Road to Makkah could not have been held at a better time; the opening dates almost prophetic in its occurrence, a week before the holy festival of Eidh Al Adha celebrated around the world. The day of Eid Al Adha falls on the tenth day in the final (twelfth) month of the Islamic Lunar Calendar; Dhu-al-Hijjah. The day that celebrations fall on is dependent on a legitimate sighting of the moon, following the completion of the annual Holy Pilgrimage of Hajj – which is an obligation for all Muslim’s who fit specific criteria, one of the important Five Pillars of Islam.
And thus, the exhibition Road to Makkah brought together artists from the Middle East and the UK, united in their faith to the Allah, with most of the artist reliving the holy travel to Makkah, showing their respect for the holiest Kaaba and the belief of the Lord they all are bound by.
“The exhibition is an attempt to trace the influence of the Holy Kaaba on each artist through various means and different perspectives based on the centuries-old tradition of celebrating it as a religious and spiritual landmark,” explains Syrian artist and curator Bachir Mohammed on his curatorial theme.
What is also special about the exhibition is a segment that traces the history of the relevance of the Hajj expedition with antique pieces related to the rituals of Hajj and the arts that expresses it. The pieces owned by a number of collectors in and around Qatar were sourced by the curator in order to give the viewers a more comprehensive view of the important religious obligation in Islam by combining the spiritual and artistic details of the pilgrimage in a way that expresses its inspiration.
Eiwan Al Gassar, a private art gallery at the St. Regis premises has an extensive space with a curved white wall close to its main entrance to put the focus on the most important spotlight art of the particular exhibition. Here, at the Road to Makkah exhibition, curator, architect and artist Bachir Mohammed has literally crafted the title to depict the direction or distance to Makkah from the point of the exhibition through his collaboration with Ahmad Al Emadi to create a massive representation of the theme, Road to Makkah.
He has also created with Al Emadi, 14 printed aluminium sheets with the different names associated with Makkah.
“It is known through history that Makkah has more than 30 names expressing its various descriptions and characteristics. Some of these names are mentioned in the Quran and each of them is significant in its connotation,” says Mohammed, who has researched and reimagined the names with all his devotion in an artistic format.
SCALE selects seven of its favourite art installations from the exhibition:
Men in Prayer
By Abdullah Al Rasheed, Saudi Arabia
A set of two 145cm X 195 cm mixed media in canvas work shows ariel views of men reading the Holy Quran. Seemingly two uncomplicated canvases it is when one looks closer that we see the embroidered turbans and the details of the text.
The folds of the traditional wear to the fingers of the men are detailed though their faces are not seen. This is the artists distinctive style where he concentrates on the embroidery of the costumes while not specifying on the facial features. A work that could take centre stage in a large room while it gives us a moment of tranquillity as we gaze at the deeply pious figures.
Hajj Certificate- Modern View
By Sharefa Al Mannai, Qatar
Placed strategically to old Hajj certificates that were earlier handed to those who completed their holy visit, this modern version of the Haj certificate have an updated version of the Hajj surroundings with the new architectural interventions. The acrylic light box is a reminder of keeping traditions intact while being aware of the modern ways.
‘Less Water, More Holy: Tools for Sustainable Ablution’
By Faheem Khan, VCUArts Qatar
The artworks are part of VCUArts Qatar student Faheem Khan’s MFA in Design thesis. Khan says he feels “a moral obligation to use his gifts and talent as a designer to help Muslims follow our Prophet’s sunnah, after all as believers of Islam, that is our goal”.
He explains further, “Muslims pray five times a day, and before each prayer, they first clean themselves by performing ritual ablution (wudu). To visualize and better understand the nature of performing wudu with just one mudd (650 ml) of water, my thesis included a two-part research investigation. The first part proposed eight individual artifacts designed to show how little water is needed for each step of the process of wudu. Next, lessons extracted from this analytical phase informed a series of contemporary artifacts designed to guide users toward a more reflective and sustainable spiritual practice.”
By Maryam Ravvar, Iran.
Two canvases in ink and acrylic is a modern interpretation through geometric continuous lines of the one strong powerful force from which the universe takes its iterations from. A different yet very powerful work of art, though we did not find much information on this artist.
By Ahmed Alshabibi, Oman
This young artist from Oman has sculpted poetry on Omani black marble and this work while being different from the rest of the artwork is also handcrafted to perfection depicting figures and calligraphy associated with the religion.
Othman M. Kunji, Qatar, VCU Arts Faculty.
The titles of the artwork are, ‘La wa illa’, ‘Perpetual Affirmation’, ‘Iqra’, ‘Religious Authority’, Religious Vanity (three parts), and ‘Mecca Modified’. Khunji has used various media, such as 3D sculptures, and scanned prints to explore the relationship between man and God. His latest artwork is titled Iqra, a 3D printed sculpture in a male form formed from verses from Surat Al Alaq which have been the first revelation to Prophet Muhammad in Mecca at cave Hira. All his work are reflective and deeply ingrained in the power of devotion while he explores various artforms to express his doubts and affirmations in the Almighty.
“The surat stresses the importance of focus on the righteous path and furthering one’s education,” he says. “This sculpture acts as a spiritual, conceptual compass, indicating where the centre of Islamic devotion is aimed at: the Kaaba in Mecca. Another example is ‘Religious Vanity’ a 3D scanned and printed artwork that contrasts the concept of man, and machine-made imperfect constructions, with God’s perfect creations. Portraying in size, colour, and reflection, the replacement of one’s love and devotion to Allah, by one’s love centred on the self, these pieces showcase the derived relationship between a Muslim’s vanity and the divine.”
By Noof Al-Naama, Qatar, VCUArts Qatar
The artwork titled ‘Tawaf’. “‘Tawaf’ illustrates instances of people encircling the Holy Ka’abah, a ritual performed by Muslims upon visiting Mecca,” she says. One of the youngest artist whose work is shown at the exhibition, the series of sketches is an indication of the talent of this young interior designers creativity and her innate sense of detailing and strong observation.
All Images Courtesy Al Eiwan Gallery