Week 5: Post-Prophetic authority, communities of interpretation, and Shi‘i Piety

Medium: Paper Collage

Love for the ahl al-Bayt (“People of the House”), specifically Ali and his progeny, is central to Shia piety. For this reason, the tragic death of Hassan and Hussein has important implications for the Shia community. Taziyeh is a passion play born in Shia Iran that commemorates the tragic fate of Hassan in Karbala. As opposed to Western theatre, the audience is very much a part of the play and will weep with emotion during the play. In this creative way, the Shia community is able to express their grief, commemorate their beloved leaders, and express their devotion in a form of communal worship.

Inspired by the powerful imagery of the Taziyeh and the love story between Qasem and Fatimeh, I created a collage made from paper. The collage depicts the resilient Fatimeh with her arms tucked neatly by her sides as she stands in a sea of blue water. The water imagery is inspired by the moment Hassan tells the dervish from Kabul with parched lips that “…we are never in need of the water of this life.” Retaining pride and dignity in the face of defeat and brutality is one of the resonating messages in the Taziyeh. Fiery flames surround Fatimeh, reminiscent of the desert’s heat. Fatimeh’s face is pale and she is on the brink of death from dehydration, yet she refuses to lift her hands to drink from the water that she is engulfed by. If you look closely into the water, you will see hints of people drowning in the water. The people drowning warns the audience of what might happen if you partake in the consumption of the water of this land, meaning if you let yourself be consumed by earthly desires. She wears a sweeping green head scarf that reminds the audience that she is of Ali’s house, and that she is a widowed bride, still wearing the traditional green that Muslim brides tend to wear on their weddings. She does not take off her green wedding veil, instead she will wear it until she is reunited with Qasem on Judgement Day.