Tina Rath’s installation, Requiem, is a ritualized grief project, communal ceremony, and a memorial to honor and celebrate the lives of those who have died from COVID-19.
Currently on view at New York City’s 92nd Street Y, this international project with worldwide scope provides a necessary opportunity to grieve together while offering support to these souls as they pass from one state of being into the next. Combining jewelry and visual art, Requiem consists of 108 necklaces of carved and ebonized wood that mass together creating a prayer mala on the perimeter of the gallery, and a collection of circle drawings in gold ink lining the walls — one circle representing each person who has died — which are displayed in the space. The names of those who died from COVID will be written on the golden circles, which act as placeholders until names are learned. Rath hopes to eventually memorialize every person who has died from the pandemic in this way.
For centuries, many of the world’s great religions have employed prayer beads for meditation and prayer. Mala means garland or necklace in Sanskrit and specifically Japa Mala are prayer beads used by Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, and Jains. The word bead comes from the Anglo-Saxon word bede which means prayer. The practice of using mala beads dates back to 8th century India and is said to represent the tears of Shiva, the most powerful of the triumvirate of gods responsible for the cycle of birth, sustenance, and death. There are 108 beads on a devotional mala. Considered to be the most auspicious of all numbers, the number 108 has a multitude of meanings but most concisely, 108 represents the unity and wholeness of existence and the basis of all creation.
Tina Rath’s Requiem Prayer Mala is 96 necklaces based on combinations of the circle and the square and 12 clear quartz ovoid necklaces for a total of 108 necklaces. In Rath’s earlier work these same elemental forms make an appearance: thousands of lines are repeated in ink to make the concentrated drawings in both her Order of Beauty and Mapping Time series. These forms are not without profound symbolism and regardless of their banality are considered sacred. Sacred geometry, or the underlying geometry in nature, is believed to amplify our spirits. The circle represents the divine life force and is a symbol of vitality, wholeness, and perfection. The square is the symbol of physical matter and stability. Moving from a two-dimensional drawing to an object allows for the addition of a three-dimensional form, the ovoid. Adding a clear quartz ovoid, a stone considered to be powerful enough to offset negative energy the 108 necklaces create a complete prayer mala carrying our prayers, well wishes, and love to all those that have died.
Mala No. 8. Handcarved limewood, oxidized sterling silver, 18k gold, and clear quartz.
Tibetan Buddhists call the state of existence between life and rebirth, the bardo. After a person dies, their soul travels through this bardo meeting all manner of beneficial and terrifying apparitions. Buddhists believe prayers and well wishes from those on Earth can help support those traveling through the bardo, easing their transition, and encouraging an auspicious reincarnation. And this is what Requiem in its essence is about: collective grief, collective prayer, and a compassionate, simple, and profound act that honors each person’s individual existence.
To learn more about Tina Rath’s Compassion Drawing Project watch this wonderful video of the project at San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral.
To donate to the project, add a name, or host a drawing event please contact the gallery or email@example.com