HoyCheong Wong, Simon Davenport and Shahed Saleem
Commissioned for Creative Folkestone Triennial 2021
NŪR, the pentagon structure which rises 10 metres high, is the visual articulation of an experiment (see below). Incomplete and precarious. Industrial and rustic. Skeletal and sinewy in day; a glowing lantern at night. It is a part of a project designed to foreground the Cultural Centre, and is presented with an exhibition, hosted in the mosque courtyard, that envisages a possible future development of the mosque building.
NŪR and the exhibition are a culmination of a long and meandering process which had its inception in 2016. Ambitious and complex in scope but necessarily fluid in its need to constantly shift and adapt to real world circumstances, this project straddles many components and trajectories. It results from an art-making process involving a dialogical engagement with the community – the congregation; men, women and children – where their aspirations and needs become the existential core of this journey.
In 2016, few people knew of the existence of the mosque, or that it had been around for over two decades. A site-specific installation, Minaret, was conceived and constructed in discussion with the mosque. The work visually articulated the existence and pride of the community and for the first time in its history, the mosque opened its doors to the public during the launch of Creative Folkestone Triennial 2017.
Through this process, many shortcomings of the building emerged: these problems ignited the idea of a “second phase”. Was it possible to facilitate a creative process and partnership with the community to design and expand the mosque?
The mosque embraced the idea, and in 2018, this experiment took off. Surveys, focus groups, workshops, briefings and feedback sessions were conducted on proposed plans. A children’s field trip and print workshop was conducted to design motifs and patterns for the future mosque. Oral histories of the community and site history was collected.
Outside the confines of the mosque, the local community also lent their support: Kent Refugee Action Network, Sarah Hague, local historians and photographers. The project became a narrative about intersections in diversity.
Note: NŪR /نور : light, day, illumination, edification, clarity.
Wong Hoy Cheong was born in Georgetown, Malaysia. He is a visual artist, educator and community worker. Working in a wide range of visual media, Wong addresses concerns about identity and indigeneity, the retrieval of marginalised narratives, migration and globalisation; and the slipperiness that lies between fact and fiction, past and present.
Simon Davenport is a sculptor, filmmaker and builder based in Folkestone. At the centre of his practice lies a fascination with the enormity of human existence. His work derives its aesthetic from a wide range of influences including film, music, literature and philosophy.
Shahed Saleem is a London-based architect and writer. He teaches architecture at the University of Westminster and his work explores the architecture of migrant and diaspora communities. Through this he has become interested in strategies of improvisation, appropriation and collaboration. His book The British Mosque was published in 2018 and his design and research work has been recognised widely. Saleem is co-curating the V&A Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2021.
HoyCheong Wong, Simon Davenport and Shahed Saleem, Nūr, Commissioned for Creative Folkestone Triennial 2021. Photo by Thierry Bal
Film by Oliver Parkin. Drone footage by Tom Bishop Photography