Why Have You Forsaken Us?!

2016

Plaster, paint, rusted metal, found objects, rigid foam

36" x 60" x 12"

 

In Why Have You Forsaken Us?! a figurine Virgin Mary is posed atop a flight of eroded stairs. In his incorporation of Christian iconography, Hafez signals to the historically multi-faith space of Syria, transformed by the 1860 civil war in Lebanon and 1878 expulsion policies of European governments after the “recapture” of Ottoman territory. Thus, the title dramatizes the abdication of historical agency by imperial powers. Her hands are clasped in prayer as if seeking entrance before a golden portal wrought upon the wall. The concave lines of both figure and portal at center shape the force and direction of surrounding buildings and objects, refracting outwards.  By contrasting the singular “you” to the plural “us,” it suggests the further abandonment of mutually entangled histories and collectively constructed futures.

A digital program, with student curated research materials, for the exhibition Critical Refuge: Sculptures by Mohamad Hafez on view at the Whitney Humanities Center, Yale University, August 30 - December 20, 2017.

This project is generously sponsored by the YALE Digital Humanities Laboratory, the Council on Middle East Studies, the Public Humanities Program and the Whitney Humanities Center.