Recorded by Stew Jackson of Robot Club, 11th May 2017.
At midnight, Sara Zaltash stood, cloaked, on a wooden structure that covers the stones that mark the remains of the original 12th-century Knights Templar church that once stood on the site. She sang a version of the Islamic call to prayer – not once, but over and over again for a full hour, her voice rising and quaking, whispering and keening and breaking. Zaltash is electrifying. She will be back every day. See her if you can.
At one point, Sara Zaltash, a Burner who’s also a Muslim, stepped up to the mic to give the traditional Islamic call to prayer. She explained to us that she had offered to do so and the Milk + Honey organizers had enthusiastically accepted. She was clearly moved, and so were we. Those hushed minutes of impassioned chanting reminded us of our shared faiths, and the possibility of spiritual harmony. Eyes were wet.
On the first night of Sanctum, artist Sara Zaltash performed at midnight, singing the Islamic call to prayer, a privilege usually reserved for men. Provocative but heartfelt, Zaltash’s performance epitomizes the intersection of cultures and traditions in Bristol’s wider population, while revealing that these things remain in flux and motion.
radical act of worship
For one sequential hour of each day for 22 days of the 24 days of Theaster Gates Sanctum (Thursday 29th October – Saturday 21st November), I will sing an adapted version of the Islamic Call to Prayer, the azaan/ adhaan.
The lyrics of the Call that I sing have been slightly adapted to respectfully omit reference to the Islamic prophet (PBUH) and to draw on the ancient, esoteric, collectivising origin of the Call, which predates Islam:
The Oneness is the Greatest!
I testify that there is no god but the Oneness!
Come to worship!
Come to sanctuary!
The Oneness is the greatest!
There is no god but the Oneness!
Traditionally, the Call is only ever publicly sung by men.
Each day, my ear will be pierced by Soniya Mundy before the hour begins, so that I have 22 new piercings at the end of Sanctum.
More information about Theaster Gates’ work can be found here: http://theastergates.com/home.html