“a pathway and a prayer” entrance to the sand
Northwest Sahara Desert, Morocco 2002
roofing tiles, burnt sage

This work gave us entrance into the territory of the Merzouga Desert and became an acknowledgement of the people that lived there.

The materials for this work were found in Fez, Northern Morocco. Fez is a maze work of alleyways and market places and introduced us to the scents and sense of the Moroccan peoples. We wandered through these streets discovering materials that we took with us to the Merzouga Desert. The roofing tiles became that material. They are approximately 18 inches long, tapered forming both a concave and convex shape. One half of the surface was glazed in green made from the skins of olives after they have been pressed for oil. The colour green represents the spirit of Islam. The other half was unglazed thus a raw clay which worked to our own sensibilities. These tiles are used for the roofs of the mosques as well as the houses offering both protection and adornment to their structures

Arriving at the Merzouga Desert with our Berber friends we were introduced to it’s pathways and entrances. We decided to construct our own pathway into the desert and follow the contour of the dunes. We did this before high noon on a Friday in respect of the importance of this time in the Islamic faith and needing to observe the five prayer daily schedule. It took great fortitude to carry the tiles into the desert but the day was incredible with unusual clarity in the air. The desert was kind to us.

We used five sets of paired tiles raised to form a pillar effect in the center area of the pathway. These were to represent the five pillars / principles of Islam; the main religious belief in this area even by many present day Berber and Tuareg nomads (although altered to their own traditional beliefs). The slightly oval space created by the pairing created a perfect circle of light on the sand below when the sun was directly overhead. In the centre pillar we burned the sage (that we had harvested in the deserts of British Columbia) with our Berber friends who had helped us trek to the site. We created a line of seven paired tiles on the earth at each side of the raised tile pillars following the contour of the dunes. Each pair of tiles formed a slightly oval space where they touched; the shape two hands make as one may pray. The first seven prayers were to acknowledge all the nomads of the desert (prior to Islam) whose practice of spirituality relates to the earth. The last seven pairs of tiles represented ourselves.

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