Water Has Memory
Curated by Lorén Elhili for Harvest Festival Marrakech
May 20 - June 24 2023

Water Has Memory is a body of paintings and a collaboratively produced scent that emerged from Meryem Meg’s research into the healing properties of water. Expanding upon her interest in the appearance of water as it is found in the teachings of Islam, Meryem also became inspired by the scientific philosophy of Dr Masaru Emoto who found that water's composition transforms depending on the environment and energy surrounding it.  Meryem was drawn to the knowledge that water is a charged element which picks up the information in its surroundings, she connected to this knowledge as complement to her ongoing meditations on our coexistence with the natural world and its cycles as spaces for contemplation, healing, and connecting our outer worlds to the inner worlds of faith.

Water Has Memory found its roots on a walk on Arranmore island, Ireland, during fajr (dawn prayer) in 2019. This grounded walk gave Meryem the seeds to begin exploring the deeper complex relations between Islamic ritual practices and the importance of water in the search for purification. Meryem began painting the series in Varna, Bulgaria during the Spring of 2020 whilst taking refuge at her grandmother's home, the home Meryem was born in, at a moment when like many of us she was questioning notions of home, safety and seeking spaces for healing and purification. We can also witness the evolution of the ideas within the work developing into a new series of paintings entitled Submissions, (2021 - Ongoing) some of which we have chosen to weave into this exhibition, alongside the moving image work When was the last time you saw the sea?, (2021).

The ceramic vessels included in the exhibition were designed by Meryem specifically for diffusion of a scent produced by perfumer Dana El-Masri of Jazmine Sarai. The scent responds to the work and is intended to encourage a sensory immersion within the universe that Water Has Memory asks us to be within. Dana's choice of scents are intended to be reminiscent of warmth, water and the inside of the shell. The forms of the ceramic vessels themselves mirror the Tayammum stone that Meryem’s paternal grandmother used for wudu and which the work Tayammum, (2021) directly references. For Meryem Tayammum is a great example of the ease and opportunity that we can find in Islam, where alternatives are laid in our path that make practising faith accessible for all.

For the pigments used in the series Meryem foraged for rocks along the Bulgarian shoreline , the outer colours were used to forge the palette we experience across all of the works. The choice to work with organic matter as a paint form echoes the close attention to waste and sustainability that we are called to consider within the teachings of Islam but also the gesture calls us to consider our environment as an exponential offering of abundant blessings that we can create alongside.

Water has a historical place in the heart, soul and ancestral lineage of Meryem Meg. Within her matrilineal ancestry we can trace back the constellation of movement that allowed her mother and father to meet in the coastal city of Oran, Algeria where her Bulgarian grandfather, a sea captain who transported goods globally was stationed. There is great meaning to be found in the fact that Meryem’s practice has become so intertwined with the element. When was the last time you saw the sea, (2021) sees Meryem exploring this matrilineal history. Made during a residency in Japan, the film documents the different stages of water collected from a puddle in Varna, Bulgaria to its transportation back to the ocean. Meryem’s mother and grandmother narrate the work allowing Meryem to hold space for her family’s coastal connections, transporting us to the places they grew up in/ shared time in, to the affect of water in the creation of their family history. Within the film we can also find references to the Quran’s teachings such as the fact that rain, caused by the movement of clouds is meant as provisions for us and  the land beneath our feet.

It is fitting that this work is seeing the first light of day at Le Jardin Secret, a space which has its own unique historical connections to water. Le Jardin Secret was one the great houses in Marrakech whose water supply alongside the cities mosques, hammams and fountains was fed by Marrakech’s first khettara (a ground drainage tunnel that intercepts and redistributes the water of the groundwater aquifer). The khettara was built by the Almoravids in the latter part of the Eleventh century. The water, which came from the Atlas mountains through an ingenious hydraulic technique was used to irrigate the gardens and serve the hammam, kitchens and fountains. You can follow its path around the gardens where we can visibly see remnants of the pipes, reservoirs and canals that are complexly interlinked.

From the metaphysical to the real, the work has spent time in Ireland, The UK and Bulgaria and Japan and now finds itself exhibited to a public for the first time in Morocco, at Le Jardin Secret, Marrakech,  a space whose gardens offer us a place for rest and contemplation and from which we can hear the medina’s mosques punctuating the days rhythms with adhan - the call to prayer made 5 times in a day.  Incorporated, these elements work to encourage us to tend to our inner worlds whilst finding the mirror of these within our physical environments. There is much poetry to be found in the journey the work has taken and for Meryem, being able to map the spiritual legacy of the work into a North African landscape carries a meaningful sentiment amplified by the spaces historical water links that celebrate Islamic knowledge and history. The opportunity for the work to be held within the context of Harvest Festival Marrakech further communicates its connections to a futurity that is grounded in the importance of honouring our ancestral practices and the landscapes that ground them.