The last time Ali Kahwaji turned his hand to art, he was a schoolboy.
Now – with a little help – Kahwaji, who is more at home in the world of web development, has created a sculpture to honour the 51 lives lost in the Christchurch terror attacks, and to thank Nelson for the solidarity it showed the Muslim community.
The idea was sparked during a conversation with senior arts tutor Catharine Salmon, with whom Kahwaji works at the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT).
“We were chatting about Islam and the aftermath of Christchurch; how it impacted many people, including people who come from war torn countries.” (Kahwaji is from Mosul, in Iraq).
“We wanted to convey a more honest message, Islam is not what the news media shows the world.”
After the terror attack, thousands of bouquets filled footpaths and were tied to fences outside the Masjid Al Noor, the Linwood mosque and the Botanic Gardens. When the flowers were removed, the ribbons were salvaged.
Through Salmon’s contacts, Kahwaji procured two bags of these ribbons. With help from a team at Cultural Conversations, he created a sculpture of cascading ribbons designed to move with the breeze. The work, which will be displayed on the anniversary of the attacks on Wednesday, will be accompanied by a white sheet on which the public can write their memories or messages.
While Kahwaji found the artistic experience a little like “taking a fish out of its tank and telling it to walk”, he hoped his piece would resonate with the community.
“I want it to remind us of those days, but a more positive message,” Kahwaji said. “Remind ourselves to stay united, despite our backgrounds and colour of our skin and who we worship.”
The aftermath of the attacks was an emotionally vulnerable time for Kahwaji, who flew to Christchurch to support his friend, whose son was killed in the attacks. Already worrying about his friends and family back home, he had to face a difficult reality about his new home.
“It hit me so hard. You think this (terror attacks) will never happen outside my home town, but you can’t guarantee things in life.”
However, Kahwaji found his community’s response to the attacks heartening: people left flowers by his door, and his son’s kindergarten made him a piece of artwork.
“The only thing I found in Nelson was support and love.
“People came together, in solidarity and unity, it was the beacon for the rest of the world; showing the world how to be united.”
Kahwaji’s artwork will be displayed from 9am to 4pm at the Church Steps on Wednesday. The public is invited to view the work and add their memories or messages.
After Wednesday, Kahwaji hoped to display the work at Cultural Conversations, and eventually at NMIT.
Source: Stuff, Amy Ridout09:44, Mar 15 2023