Hamra Abbas works extensively with photography, performance and multimedia art. Raised in Lahore where she studied Visual Arts at the National College of Arts, Abbas is best known for works where she appropriates and (re)deploys iconic images from popular visual culture that carry religious or art historical significance.
Kaaba Pop-ups (2014) is a series of 24 handmade sculptures in various shades of blue composed of paper that has been folded into intricate Islamic stalactite patterns. At their centre is a three-dimensional box-like element modeled on the ‘Kaaba’, Islam’s holiest site- a cuboid structure at the centre of the mosque in Mecca. Images of the Kaaba are a familiar sight in Muslim homes, including those in the artist’s native Lahore, the reproductions being popular souvenirs brought by those who make the pilgrimage to Mecca. These images serve as everyday embodiments of the ritualistic seven-fold circumambulation of the Kaaba that is performed at Mecca.
Kaaba Pop-ups builds on several recent projects by the artist that draw on popular images of the Kaaba. One of these is Kaaba Picture as a Misprint (2014), for which she distilled this familiar shape into a minimal form before rendering it in the three primary colours of offset printing that converged in prints to produce black.
In Kaaba Pop-ups, the artist explores the contrast between paper, a fragile medium, and the monument it seeks to evoke. According to her, “The title, ‘Pop-up Kaaba’ and the fragility of the material suggest temporality and impermanence, which is at odds with Kaaba as an iconic, timeless structure.” Seen through shifting hues of blue, the installation acts as a signifier for nature, faith and the infinity of the sky and the seas.