Old Kent Road Mosque

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Jamaat (2020)

Made in collaboration with Old Kent Road Mosque community, Jamaat comprised of two simultaneous moving floor projections, one in the main prayer hall and one in the female prayer room. At the end of the residency there was a socially distanced site performance and a virtual screening as part of Visit My Mosque 2020, organised by the Muslim Council of Britain.

Located in a renovated former pub in Southwark, the Nigerian Muslim association informally started in the early 1960s with a transient community of Nigerians coming to London to study. Initially staying only for short periods of time, it was not until the 1980s when a more permanent community started to develop. It took a further 10 years before the association in 1993 acquired their first place of worship and another 5 years after that before the abandoned pub was established as Old Kent Road Mosque.

The buildings two large rooms were adapted to serve as prayer spaces. The upstairs was converted into the main prayer hall and directly below, the former bar became the women’s prayer space. As seperate entrances are also required, the male space is accessed from the back door.

Mosques in Britain are crowd-sourced community projects. There is no overarching religious authority that directs or funds mosque buildings, religious congregations are independent and self-organized. As a result, mosques built by immigrant communities have adapted to and altered the British vernacular, and can be found in terraced houses, supermarkets and pubs.

Detail of the main prayer hall, the interior decoration reflects the layering of Islamic visual symbols. The building is decorated throughout with accents of gold and green, which in many places highlight’s the pub’s original interior ornament. The external windows have been painted green and dome motifs have been applied to the windows.

The mosque congregation are in the process of fundraising to replace the converted pub with a larger purpose-built mosque on the same site.

A new purpose-built Mosque and islamic centre is proposed for the community that will double the prayer space for men and women; expand their Islamic school and strengthen their community.

The new mosque and Islamic centre is due to be built on the existing site of Old Kent Road Mosque in 2020. It was agreed that Assembly would be made and performed in both the main prayer hall and female prayer space before the building is demolished. The artwork would act as both a celebration of the community and a historical record of an under-represented aspect of Britain’s religious heritage, the self-built mosque.

The congregation played an active role in the installation of the artwork in both the main prayer hall and female prayer space. Identical ceiling rigs were constructed in both sites respecting the religious and cultural rules of the mosque. Both filming rigs were automated, silent and the camera was not permitted to film in front of the people praying, nor could it show their faces.

Due to COVID-19 a socially distanced performance of Jamaat took place for the congregation alongside a virtual performance via a live stream. This provided an opportunity for the mosque community to virtually experience congregational prayer, after a period of two months without access to the mosque. The projection was also streamed during Visit My Mosque Day, to welcome the wider community (virtually) into the mosque.

“On a normal day this is what the mosque is like, usually you are part of it, part of the experience. Because we haven’t been able to join for congregational prayer I see it now with fresh eyes, the community, the unity, all doing the same thing at the same time, together in the same space, it’s something we haven’t had for a while. (congregation feedback)

“I know that you didn’t intend it for the time to be like this but I think it makes it more current for the time we are in, it makes it more impactful… almost as if you are watching through the looking glass, the birds eye view.” (congregation feedback)

Documentation of the virtual site performance.

The virtual site performance was live streamed during Visit My Mosque 2020. An event organised by the Muslim Council of Britain to welcome the wider community (virtually) into Old Kent Road Mosque.