Intricate threads weave their way in waves of colour. Golden vines ascend into blossoming buds. Backlit by clear sky hues. Scarlet ribbons mark an avian paradise bellow a crimson crest suspended from the heavens. Ritualised in stitches and the repetition of prayer.
In a world seemingly rife with despair through the polarization of peoples in global politics, fear mongers distort and manipulate base instincts while preying on universal anxieties. In response to this Cape Town-based artist, Thania Petersen, presents ‘IQRAA’. In its Arabic form إقرأ was first enunciated by Angel Gabriel and means to ‘read’.
In the context of Thania’s work, this instructive phrase allows the space for a more compassionate view – a meditative moment to quell the chaos through the invocation of prayer. “For me a prayer mat symbolizes the most sacred space – an intimate space – that you are in when you[‘re] in the ritual of prayer…It’s not about the physical space this mat symbolizes, but about the spiritual space, the inner space. It doesn’t matter if it’s up in a gallery or on the beach or in a house, it’s not about what’s around it or the context that you put the mat in, but the context of where you are when you stand on that mat.”
However, the prayer mats in ‘IQRAA’ were produced exclusively for display. “My prayer mats are not made to be used either…So, it’s not something that I would see as blasphemous in any way, it is art rather than a tool for ritual.” Thania often explores aspects of ritual in her work, “ritual is a very important part of my life and I think it’s a very political thing too, not just spiritual but political in the sense that duality can be used to liberate.”
By displaying signifiers of religious practice in a typically secular space, Thania hopes to create a conversation around the threat of succumbing to religious intolerance and fundamentalism while inviting us to contemplate on the value of hope that faith brings. “My practice is very much a therapy, I deal with things that maybe don’t sit well with me or I’m trying to figure out, so it’s very much working through things, trying to talk to things and talk about things and prompt conversation – reaching out and seeing if anyone else feels as confused as me. It’s working things out, not necessarily finding the answers.”
The stars had only one task: they taught me how to read.
They taught me I had one language in heaven
And another language on earth
The exhibition will open on Wednesday 6 February 2019 at 18h00 at WHATIFTHEWORLD Gallery in Cape Town.