El Zohra Was Not Born in a Day – Randa Mirza

Dates: November 17, 2016 – January 7, 2017
Location: Galerie Tanit

In its philosophical sense, Al-Jahiliyyah – literally meaning “Days of ignorance” – does not describe a historical period as much as the state of ignorance and darkness that preluded the revelation of monotheistic Islam. This period and its rich cultural polytheistic heritage has been actively censored and remains, up until today, overlooked, underreported, and widely ignored. Later on, orientalist systems of knowledge contributed to further conceal polytheist heterogeneity in the foundation of Islam’s storytelling. Recently, the “Islamic State” has undertaken to destroy some of the few remains of that historical period, mainly archeological sites, temples and sculptures of Semitic gods.

EL-ZOHRA WAS NOT BORN IN A DAY delves into archeological Near-East artifacts, the stories of the old Muslim chroniclers, the Qur’an, classical Arabic literature and the vast realm of pre-Islamic poetry to unearth hidden mythological tales from Ancient Arabia. The works on show in this exhibition are sculptures of destroyed Arabian gods and miniature multi-media dioramas, each recounting an ancient forgotten pre-Islamic myth.

These repressed myths reveal obscured, unrepresented, and yet still powerful aspects of Arab history and collective memory. Uncovering these myths offers a more in-depth and nuanced perspective on the Arab people, their culture and religions­. It involves an alternative storytelling that challenges the master narrative produced by successive systems of domination, religious or secular; thus challenging the dominant discourses that shape political identities by making visible the current symbolic constructions of religious and political storylines.

Text by Randa Mirza and Helene Quiniou