Paper, silk, cotton piping.
PRESS RELEASE: FROM "Mawasah"
"The exhibition takes its title from the Arabic word mwasah, loosely translating as “comforting someone in a period of mourning.” This series of works was kindled by the recent loss of a close friend. His funeral was the artist’s first experience of a traditional Muslim service, and she was struck by its silence, swiftness, and separation of mourners by gender. Its use of material, too, made a deep impression on the artist. In Islamic tradition, the deceased is wrapped in a clean, white shroud, bound by rope in three knots: at the head, the waist, and the feet. Kasem soon began researching early Islamic mourning rituals, particularly the phenomenon of wailing, a ritual practiced during Islam’s development in the 7th century and enacted only by women. This combination of crying, singing, and screaming was most often conducted in a group and served to collectively mourn the deceased. The women tore their clothes, scratched their cheeks, and pulled their hair, giving a brazen voice to their sorrow. Many Muslim men scorned these unsettling rituals as uncivilized. Not only did they contradict the trust in Allah essential to the Islamic faith, they were also group actions conducted and controlled by women in a patriarchal culture.
In the works on view in the exhibition, Kasem draws from the formal aspects of these historical and contemporary rituals to create physical manifestations of her own mourning. While she chooses her fabric and ties her knots carefully, the works are made quickly and intuitively. She tears, abrades, and stretches paper, cloth, and rope nearly to the point of breaking. The works express a sense of grief’s pain and sorrow, yet their surprising elegance suggests the act of mourning’s worth. In them the artist creates her own ritual-materializing her own voice, that is, like wailing, both poetic and bold."
– Elizabeth Rooklidge