AHMED MATER, Workers Camp, 2015, C-print, 51 × 76 cm. Courtesy the artist. 

Mecca Journeys

Ahmed Mater

Moving between the sacred and secular, Saudi artist Ahmed Mater’s photographs, videos and installation works at the Brooklyn Museum situate the city of Mecca as both a historical pilgrimage site for Muslims and a locus of contemporary urban development. Adopting a chiefly documentarian approach, Mater records the influx of international believers as they travel through Mecca and its surrounding locales for the hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca obligatory for all Muslims, whose annual date is specified by the Islamic calendar) and ’umrah (an optional visit to the holy city at any time), and juxtaposes these crowds with intimate images of construction workers and Mecca’s residents at home. The wide range of photographs, taken between 2011 and 2016, are culled from Mater’s project, Desert of Pharan: Unofficial Histories Behind the Mass Expansion of Mecca, and accompanied by texts written by the artist that tabulate the holy destination’s rapid changes. 

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