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Artist note: Shireen Taweel on the cover of The Tribe (2024) by Michael Mohammed Ahmad

Shireen Taweel reflects on her artwork Astro Architecture. A detail of this work – made from engraved copper plate and aquatint prints – was used as the basis for the cover image of the new edition of The Tribe by Michael Mohammed Ahmad.

Astro Architecture sits within a future landscape. A speculative landscape of migration into Space, a movement of peoples and spiritualities working to decentre the colonial past, present and future of Space travel. Astro Architecture proposes architectural affirmations of the sacred for future Space migration and pilgrimage. A vision of sacred architecture to contain spiritual knowledge systems, and places for community gatherings of ritual and ceremony to build relationships of sustainability between the non-living and living landscapes of a future in Space.

Astro Architecture is informed by the astronomical and celestial navigation instruments and technologies of the Arab sciences and the impact on the movement of people for migration and pilgrimage, as well as the significance of the architectural representation of the sacred for this movement. The print series reflects upon existing celestial navigation instruments of the Arab Sciences as a source of shared cultural histories, memory, identity, colonised and decolonised collections of movement, which contributes to the potential decolonising of Space activity and visions of a multicultural, progressive, and equitable future in Space.

The application of the heritage engraving techniques used to embellish astronomical instruments, and the recording and mapping of astronomical knowledge has been employed by the artist to hand engrave the large copper plates for the prints. The three sacred architectural forms reference the astrolabe, quadrant and sextant, astronomical devices used to measure the distance between two objects and of immense spiritual virtue. The pierced patterns on the forms are inspired by the intricate embellishment of the astrolabe, an ancient astronomical instrument used in Islamic and European cultures as both a scientific and spiritual navigational tool and the most advanced pre-telescope technology.

— Shireen Taweel

Shireen Taweel Astro Architecture 2023 (detail). Engraved copper plate, aquatint, unique print
78 x 106cm. Image courtesy of the artist Shireen Taweel and STATION Australia. Photo: Ian Zainab Salem.
The Tribe by Michael Mohammed Ahmad
Shireen Taweel, Astro Architecture 2023. Engraved copper plate, aquatint prints. Triptych 78 x 106 cm each. Photo: Ian Zainab Salem.

Artist bio

Shireen Taweel’s practice reflects the diasporic landscape she inhabits as a Lebanese Australian, employing cross-cultural discourse around the construction of cultural heritage, knowledge, identity, and language. Through sensorially immersive installations that draw on architecture, Islamic science and ritual, Taweel brings to light histories and cultural practices that have been buried beneath the weight of social political power structures. Her most recent work rests speculative astral architecture upon a diverse foundation of past celestial technologies.

The development and research for her projects are often site-specific, working in collaboration with local communities, their architecture and their environment with a focus on experimentation in material and sound through site. Through the contemporary use of heritage coppersmith artisan techniques, including engraving and hand-piercing, Taweel’s works create a space for shared histories and fluid community identities.

Shireen Taweel. Photo: Nadia Refaei