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We all have different ways of dealing with uncertainties. For us it is mostly through exercising and keeping our minds busy with making. When at the end of March the UK Government declared a widespread lockdown, which brought everything to a halt, cancelling or postponing all our projects, we felt we needed to do something to keep all our worries and anxieties in check.

There was, however, a small problem; our suppliers were on lockdown, too, and even if they were not, at such uncertain time, we did not want to spend resources on purchasing timber for a project that was not really necessary.

While considering what to make and how, painted rainbows and other messages of gratitude started to turn up on people’s windows as a way thanking the NHS and other essential workers. In confinement, the windows of people’s homes started to become apertures through which one could to express oneself, send messages, and establish connections with the wider world.

At the same time, the lockdown also meant that many people had time to do DYIs around their houses. So on our way to the grocery store or en route to our daily exercise, we started seeing scraps of timber and broken furniture pieces people had put out on pavements. We gradually started picking them up and bringing them to our studio.

By this time, the answer to the two main questions of what and how started to emerge: we would make a piece that would go in one of the windows in our flat conveying a message to the world outside, while recycling the timber from other people’s DIY projects. This would be our first work using recycled and soft wood. Things began to come together in our heads. We wanted to make a lockdown artwork that would become a meditation, something that would need time to figure out and make. The process of making would be part of the goal. The work would combine aspects of our heritage with our current lives.

A lockdown installation

“Salaam” is 1 meter wide and 2 meters wide and consists of a 3 dimensional screen made up of multiple layers of hexagonal grids with infill designs from Afghanistan. A secondary horizontal diamond grid in the screen is a nod to the traditional leaded windows in the UK.

In total, thousands of individual strips of wood are interwoven and hand joined to create an irregular surface. At closer inspection, from certain angles a hidden message, a word in builders’ kufic script starts to emerge.

One of the earliest styles used in Islamic calligraphy, Kufic developed from the Nabataean alphabet in the Iraqi city of Kufa. The script is characterized by angular, rectilinear letterforms and has many different versions. The builders’ or square Kufic is based on a strict square or triangular/slanted grid and often used in brick and or tile architectural elements. In this case, the triangular grid of the screen and the infill pattern are used on multiple layers to express the message: Salaam.

“Salaam” (equivalent of Shalom in Hebrew) is a common form of greeting in many Arab-speaking and Muslim countries. The term means "peace be upon you”. The proto-Semitic root SLM refers to the notions of peace, health, and wholesomeness.

This is our hello to the world, this is our message of peace but also a message of health and hope to a Corona ridden world from our window.


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