Kaashif Ghanie, Armour, 2018. Glazed stoneware, 44 x 89 x 44 cm.
Kaashif Ghanie, Ointment, 2018. Glazed stoneware, 41 x 73 x 41 cm.
Kaashif Ghanie, That One, 2018. Glazed stoneware, 35x 68 x 35 cm.
Nestled on both sides of the Living Room’s faux fireplace is earthenware pottery made by Kaasif (Kaas) Ghanie, which provides a warm and grounded element to the space’s arrangement. Kaas, a first-generation Guyanese-Canadian artist, lives and works in K’jipuktuk/Halifax. Kaas’s earthenware vessels borrow from traditional Islamic forms and motifs; these speak to his Muslim identity and personal experiences of Islamaphobia and racism. Two of Kaas’ pots in the Living Room are material reflections on separate occasions in which he experienced discrimination based on his skin colour. That One is inspired by the form of the Albarello Jar, which was traditionally made in varying sizes to be used as an apothecary jar to store ointments and dry drugs. The title of this work refers to an incident where Kaas was called “that one” by an American border guard. On the shape and process of making this jar, Kaas reflected: “The shape tapers in the centre, creating a concave silhouette, and the jar is topped with a knobbed lid. After forming the pot on the wheel I carved lattice into its walls so that the negative words that my family, friends, and I have suffered will be contained within its body.” Ointment alludes to an experience Kaas had while growing up where, after receiving third-degree burns on his leg in an accident, the doctor in the hospital commented on the colour of his family’s skin and delayed treating him, making him wait despite the severity of his injury. On this vessel, the incident is expressed in the surface colour which resembles brown skin, as well as through the texture, which is reminiscent of burning and melted flesh. These anecdotes illustrate how commonplace racist and Islamaphobic discrimination are, as well as the ways that people of Colour are often objectified and dehumanized in their interactions with institutions of power, such as agents of the state (a border guard, for example) and within the medical system. It also highlights how people of Colour face barriers when attempting to access government services, public and private education systems, and travel systems. The third pot, Armour, is in the shape of the Islamic Alhambra jar. Like the rare Alhambra jars, Kaas has used a rusted metallic glaze to finish this vessel. With this work, Kaas envisioned a full body armour that protected the body as well as the head – the lid of this vessel is elaborate and powerful looking. This armour is meant to be a sign of resilience and survivance. “Armour represents a shield against the external forces of hate, and also preserves the Alhambra vase as a symbol of Islamic culture,” Kaas notes. “Time wears many things down, but armour allows them to endure.”