When we think about a church, temple, mosque or any other religious building, we have this image of a very traditional design. Nowadays this well-known feeling and sight seems to change. Mosques have become subject to many artistic changes and “Paradise Has Many Gates” is one of these artistic and outstanding mosques.
“Paradise Has Many Gates” is a life-sized piece of art by the Saudi Arabian artist Ajlan Gharem. Although this art piece has the design of a traditional mosque, shares the call to prayer 5 times a day and is decorated with the traditional rugs that you can find in every mosque, it is nothing like a traditional mosque. The transparent mosque is made of completely different and unexpected materials: plexiglass, aluminum, rolled steel and electric lights. Because of this choice of materials, the mosque is often associated with the barricades in Europe that control the flow of refugees as well as the US military prison compound Guantanamo Bay.
It also creates a feeling of imprisonment when one stands in it. This is what this art piece wants to evoke. It wants people to think about how fences isolate and divide not only people but also ideas. This is why the choice of material is important. The “see-through” walls make it possible to break the barrier between the inside world and the outside world. People who have never seen the inside of a mosque and who don’t know what happens inside of this religious building, get a better understanding of the activities and the spirituality.
Although “Paradise Has Many Gates” caused controversy when it was first placed in Saudi Arabia, now the piece has become successful in the Western world. This summer, the mosque was placed in Vancoucer’s Vanier Park, where it will remain for the next two years. Ajlan Gharem hopes that his artwork will not only be something to show, but rather “a space for ideas, for dialogue, for a new kind of conversation”, he told the international press.
This is not the first project by Ajlan Gharem, who is an elementary school math teacher by day and an artist by night. His previous project “Mount Of Mercy” is a collection of over 10,000 images, collected over 6 years, of pilgrims visiting Mount Arafat.
What are your thoughts on “Paradise Has Many Gates”?