Waswasa – Whispers in Prayer, is one of the major commissions for the Birmingham 2022 Festival happening in this Summer. This immersive theatrical experience, by artist Mohammed Ali, will run for ten days at the Birmingham Hippodrome from 25 August – 3 September 2022.
Waswasa – Whispers in Prayer creates a bold, dynamic and confident exploration of Islamic prayer which expresses aspects of faith in a form rarely seen whilst simultaneously offering an insightful window into this world of Islamic prayer for those who are not Muslim.
Waswasa is a unique, multi-disciplinary, live theatrical immersive experience combining art, music, movement which will transform a major city theatre into a space of spiritual reflection celebrating the spirit of a community that is largely unheard, bringing them to the forefront and away from the margins.
Members of the public are invited to contribute in the lead-up to the Waswasa by taking part in a series of events at the new Soul City Arts studio space in Sparkbrook, Birmingham. These events place community voices at the heart of the show and encourage Muslim and non-Muslim groups to share and inscribe real prayers, hopes and dreams on specially provided prayer mats which will then be exhibited in the Waswasa performance space.
Hundreds of prayer mats are being created for the lead-up events which will act as a way to create moments of gathering where meaningful conversations will take place, where food will be eaten and where films will be played.
Waswasa is the Arabic word used to describe distractions from prayer. In these busy, tech-driven times many seek that elusive ‘flow state’ in other ways, whether through the gym, mediation, or yoga, but also fail because life is simply too busy.
Waswasa will draw parallels between the act of personal faith and the quest to achieve that calm. In this age of distraction, a simple act of worship can become a revolutionary act, a time to let go of ego and clear our minds of ‘waswasa’.
In Waswasa, the audience will have time to explore the art installation of Islamic prayer mats from within the community before entering an intimate theatrical performance featuring music and film further exploring the theme of prayer, the physical act of Islamic prayer, the triumphs, and the struggles. Finally, the audience will have time to pause, reflect or pray and to see up close a replica of the famous Birmingham Qur’an, considered to be one of the world’s oldest manuscripts dating back to the 6th or 7th century.
Through the gathering of different communities coming to Waswasa to experience this unique show, Mohammed Ali together with the team at Soul City Arts hopes to demystify this familiar yet misunderstood physical tradition of Islamic prayer and challenge the audiences’ perception.
Artistic Director of Soul City Arts Mohammed Ali MBE says, “We’re incredibly proud to have been given this opportunity in Birmingham 2022 Festival to explore the concept of Islamic prayer, something we’ve wanted to do for some time and celebrate our voice in Waswasa, an uplifting cultural experience that welcomes everyone. We hope this immersive multi-disciplinary theatrical performance at the Birmingham Hippodrome will give the audience a window into the Islamic world and in some small way bring communities together. Gratitude goes to the B2022 team led by Martin Green for commissioning and supporting us on this epic project allowing us to tell this story which we hope will inspire, educate, surprise, and entertain our audiences. Thanks also to our partners at the Birmingham Hippodrome, University of Birmingham, University of Warwick and Guidhall Live Events, part of Guildhall School of Music & Drama.”
Raidene Carter, Executive Producer of the Birmingham 2022 Festival says: “Waswasa will be a seminal project for the city and Birmingham 2022 Festival following the spotlight of the Games when we can all take a moment to reflect on stories that need more discrete moments of celebration. Mohammed is a proud Brummie and Muslim, and this project emphasises that people from across the Commonwealth are connected through their faith. We’re proud to be commissioning Waswasa as a new artistic experience that’s distinctly of this time and of this place.”
Waswasa is presented by the Birmingham 2022 Festival, generously funded by Arts Council England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund.