Opening tomorrow at the British Museum is Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam. It is an almost overwhelmingly rich exhibition of artefacts and artworks to someone (like myself) who has very little insight into the history, power and importance of the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca. Amongst the manuscripts (including an extraordinary and beautiful Qua’ran from the 8th Century), textiles, journals and imagery is a very small and elegant modern artistic interpretation of this spiritual phenomena called Magnetism.
Artist Ahmed Mater has captured the simple correlation between magnetism and the millions of Muslims who undertake Hajj. Those who are able must make the journey once in their lifetime in a collective endeavour that is also deeply personal, an attempt at finding the “heart of reality,” and the “centre of self” so that they might better understand their lives.
The effect of his art is immediate: the delicate iron fillings evoking a visual analogy of the heart of Mecca, irrepressibly composed in an evanescent movement about a black cube; the magnetised representation of the Ka’bah.
The rest of the exhibition does a wonderful job of contextualising and educating its audience, focussing on the relationship between faith and society and the continued relevance of such a profound act to so many people.