STEVENSON is pleased to present an installation by Igshaan Adams as part of the side gallery series - an ad-hoc series showing young artists on a project basis.
Adams describes the work as follows:
For this installation I have created a holy space by covering the floor with Islamic prayer mats, stitched together in quilted fashion, facing the direction of Mecca. To create a sense of comfort I have added a layer of thick blankets underneath, a practice employed by local Muslims when making Thik'r (the chanting of the holy names of God and Quranic verses in unison, usually performed on Thursday evenings).
During Islamic prayer, worshippers prostrate on the ground in humility before God. The only requirement in Islam, besides the body being cleansed, is that prayer be performed in an area that is clean. Traditionally the prayer mat has become a means of ensuring the cleanliness of the place of prayer and creating an isolated space to concentrate in prayer.
The rug designs are often geometric, floral, arabesque, or depict Islamic landmarks such as the Ka'aba in Mecca or Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. They are usually designed so that the rug has a definite 'top' and 'bottom' - the bottom is where the worshipper stands, and the top points towards the direction of Mecca, believed to be the centre point of the universe.
Originally carpet designs were based on the plan of a royal pleasure garden or paradise. They represented beds of spring flowers and blossoming trees divided by paths and water flowing in channels with thick borders around them indicating confined space.
The image of a snake cut into and stitched across the floor-covering/garden serves as antagonist in this sacred environment. In Islam as in Christianity and Judaism, the snake is a symbol of deceit and treachery. Yet, historical records from cultures across the world reference the snake as a symbol of knowledge, and of the energy of transformation within needed to reach spiritual enlightenment.
On a personal level, the idea of the snake comes from a dream I had two years ago on the 27th night of Ramadaan, Lay'Latul'Qad'r (the Night of Power, when God sent the Holy Quraan to mankind as a guide for judgment between right and wrong). In this dream the snake emerges from a pool of water. I am accompanied by a child and together we engage with the snake in fearless fascination. Taking her four young into her mouth, the snake exits the pool and slithers away. In this recurring dream the child grows up into a teenage boy and helps me combat the snake.
The foundation of Islam is the five Pillars of Islam: 1. To believe in one God and his messenger, 2. To perform the five daily prayers, 3. To give alms, 4. To fast during the month of Ramadaan, 5. To perform pilgrimage to Mecca for those who are able to. With the concept for this installation being formulated two years after my first dream during this auspicious month, the concrete pillar in the exhibition space becomes representative of the fourth pillar of Islam.
Born in Bonteheuwel, Cape Town, in 1982, Adams graduated from the Ruth Prowse School of Art and is currently a resident artist at Greatmore Studios in Cape Town. He was included on the AVA's Greatest Hits of 2009 and held his first solo show, Vinyl, at the AVA in 2010. He took part in the Infecting the City public arts festival in 2011, and was included on Swallow My Pride at blank projects, Cape Town, in 2010.
The exhibition opens on Thursday 8 September, from 6 to 8pm.