When They Give Their Word, Their Word is Bond

A bucolic garden in San Francisco, a small mosque in North Oakland, and storefront windows in San Francisco’s Tenderloin are brought together to bring “The Word” to the street. Imam Zaid Shakir is a local African American Muslim scholar who founded the Lighthouse Mosque in North Oakland and is co-founder of Zaytuna College in Berkeley, California. Kashani brings two “performances” together, one a staged portrait where he recites, translates, and provides commentary on his favorite verse in the Qur’an and the second a recording of his khutba (sermon) at the Friday afternoon congregational prayer at the Lighthouse Mosque in Oakland. The Tenderloin is well known amongst Bay Area Muslim populations for its mosques, halal restaurants, markets, and its Arab populations, as well as for its liquor stores, sex work, and drug trade. Recalling the tradition of the street preacher, When They Give Their Word… mediates a space of the social and the devotional, the spiritual and the practical, and the aspirations of an Islamic future and the realities of Muslim everyday life.

This installation is part of Kashani’s larger ethnographic project that examines textual practices and genealogies at Zaytuna College and in Bay Area Islam. The above videos were projected simultaneously in a running loop. The video below is a document of the installation at Siete Potencias Africanas Gallery in San Francisco’s Tenderloin. It was presented as part of the Ethnographic Terminalia Exhibition in 2012.