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KHALID, Aisha; Water has never feared the fire

Aisha Khalid draws on Persian and Islamic art, experimenting with scale, technique and subject matter to transform historic traditions into an art practice that is politically and socially relevant today. In her transformation of elaborate techniques, Khalid subtly comments on our contemporary world, particularly issues relating to gender and violence.

Taking its title from the words of the thirteenth-century Persian poet Rumi, Water has never feared the fire 2018 is a triptych of tapestries created with thousands of pins. The central panel is based on the quadrilateral garden layout of the Charbagh (‘four gardens’ in Urdu). The Charbagh represents the quintessential Islamic garden from the Qur’an, and is a symbol of paradise on earth. The four sections constitute the four gardens of paradise and are delineated by four water channels representing the rivers of paradise. Within the sections are dragons and phoenix – creatures that appear widely in Persian art – while the outer panels’ geometric designs represent water, in which sea creatures and ships symbolise trade and the movement of peoples and cultures. Motifs on one side of her tapestry are barely distinguishable on the reverse, including a central design, which, in Mughal architecture and gardens, would be the space where the heavenly symbols culminate.