My Grandmother Matam

My Grandmother Matam


Matam: An Arabic word which literally translated to a mourning house. In Bahrain Shia Muslim society it is the place to conduct certain rituals for happy and sad religious events. Matam is a gender-segregated place so there are men Matam and women Matam.

Men Matams are located normally in a hall in the city or the village, which makes it more of a community center but what is special about women Matams in Bahrain that it is usually part of the family house, it could be one of the rooms, sometimes even in the middle of the house or an extension of the house like my grandmother Matam.

Being away from community control, and because of its private and isolated nature, women Matam is run according to the mood of its owner, especially when it comes to the type of rituals and stories to be told about the historical events. Like the case of my grandmother Matam which things has not changed since more than 50 years ago.

Most of the women Matam won’t conduct any religious lectures or talks, during mourning event, for example, a person named “Mullaya” would cite poets and historical stories and the place will always reflect a loud voice of mourning rhythm and cry of women.

I was lucky that my grandmother and other women attending the Matam allowed me to document the story of women Matam. What I document is the renovated Matam which looks very modern today but with touches of decoration, it has its own personality. For me the Matam will always be part of my memory growing up next to it, this work is a pure documentation of my grandmother Matam and it is an untold story in Bahrain.

This is part of an ongoing project to document women Matams in Bahrain.

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