I don’t remember the exact date, sometime in late 2004 when I had made an appointment to see a woman who read tarot cards, Perditia (Pur-dee-sha). On the day of the appointment, I telephoned her to confirm our meeting and she did not answer. A few hours later I tried again and this time a man answered, he said his name was Jimmy. He claimed to be Perditia’s fiance and was in possession of her mobile phone which she had left at his house. He said he would meet me to take me to her. We arranged to meet at the Salmon, a pub at Bethnal Green station, the sort embedded with grime and tragedy. I had been at the station a hundred times before and never thought to go in. It was getting dark outside when I arrived. I went in, ordered a beer and sat down at a table in the corner. Jimmy was late, I waited, a gentle anxiety creeping up my spine. An hour had passed when a man dressed in a black kilt and a leather jacket came in and straight over to me. He had a shiny bald head and introduced himself to me as Jimmy. He shook my hand and held it as he announced himself, I will take you to Perditia safely, this I swear.
We left the pub and wandered along the dark and windy streets of Bethnal Green, Jimmy nattering away to me seeming at times maniacal and others enlightened. A Shaolin Monk of the streets, a body guard to the top dogs of London, an insomniac, his mind whirred at hundred miles an hour. I distinctly recall a feeling of bewilderment and mild anxiety which he sensed questioning me almost as soon as I had felt it. Well what do you expect, I asked him straight in the eye. At one point he stopped and to pick up a plastic bag on the pavement from which he pulled out a pair of black boots, these are my fiancees size, a gift from the Gods. We cut through a park circumferenced by council blocks. This is the hostel where Perditia’s daughter is staying, Perditia might be here. We approached a single storey building and pressed the buzzer. Perditia was not there.
Jimmy kept his word and after an hour or so of wandering and talking and bus rides, we arrived at a large brick council block in Wapping. He took me knowingly through the brick archways, up a set of dimly lit stairs and into a barely furnished flat. I have to get ready for work - security up the west end. I protect the people who need it. He pressed play on a ghetto blaster on the table, loud techno blasted out and started to get changed in the bathroom, door wide open. Shirt off, he came into the room in which I was seated, joining me at the dining table and produced a large bag of weed and a huge kitchen knife. He chopped the weed into fine pieces and rolled a joint. He tugged at it and passed it to me as he got up and flipped his body like the most agile gymnast in time to the music. He pulled on a tight t-shirt, a black jumper and a green puffer jacket, I’m ready, and I’m off to Soho. I told you I would bring you to Perditia safe, she is on her way. I must make a shrine for my queen before I leave and he arranged a tea light amidst some flowers, and lit the candle. I told you I am a Shaolin, we do not earn money, only accept it as an offering, will you offer me something? I only have enough for my reading, but I have tabacco. He accepted this and left. Alone and stoned, in the near dark, bare room, I waited.
Jimmy was a Shaolin monk of the streets. He did not sleep. He lived amongst the people of the city, the ones who chose to live diametrically opposed existences. Jimmy was a bodyguard. A trained martial artist, a man of the streets, protecting because he felt it was his duty to watch over his brothers and sisters. Just as the Taoist groups sought to protect their fellow kind out on the streets, in the palaces and all those unable to protect themselves against the tyranny of a harsh society.
My train of thought was interrupted by Perditia, who entered her flat. Hello, I hear you met Jimmy, she said with a wry smile. She made tea, we laughed and smoked and began the reading. The first card I pulled was Death.
Collab. with Renu Hossain + Andrea Andromeda
Submission for Shoppenhour Journal, Rights Issue, Publication March 2011
In November 2009, Swiss voters backed a referendum proposal to ban the building of minarets on mosques in Switzerland.
The Swiss People’s Party (SVP), stating that minarets are a sign of ‘Islamasisation,’ put the proposal forward.
In response to the ban, Foreign Architects in Switzerland (FAS) held an open competition for a public Islamic Centre in Zurich with a mosque where Muslims can gather and practice their religion in an open urban context
This is Part 1 of my submission.
MOSQUE + SPIRE
…the minaret developed out of the corner temenos of the Church of St John the Baptist at Damascus…church towers have to be sturdily built to take the immense weight of the bells, which is why minarets are more slender and graceful.
Architecture of the Islamic World, eds. G.Michell.
The submission speaks to the current global trend of building homogenous sites of worship in the spirit of modernism, denying the very functional forms of religious places of worship.
It is also nods to the Islamic tradition of appropriating existing buildings and architectural features during periods of conquest to build mosques, an instance of which can be seen in the Mesquite-Cathedral, Cordoba, Spain.