Azza El Siddique’s “Dampen the flame; Extinguish the fire”
              Murtaza Vali
              At once material and spectral, intimate and diffuse, scent can linger, occupying space and impregnating matter while remaining invisible. And it is the warm, smoky, sweet aroma of bukhoor—a type of incense composed of various aromatic resins and essential oil-infused wood chips that is commonly used across the Muslim world—that hits you first, near the top of the stairs, even before you enter Toronto-based Azza El Siddique’s sophomore show at Helena Anrather. Physiologically linked to the brain’s limbic system—the neurological locus of memory and emotion—the sense of smell is a powerful trigger, eliciting both a visceral and affective response. For El Siddique, bukhoor both invokes and evokes. It references religious spaces and rituals, sacralizing the gallery and our encounters within it. It also conjures up memories of the Sudanese diasporic community in which she grew up, and the many matriarchs who helped sustain it. One of its components is sandaliya, an oil derived from sandalwood that is used during the ritual washing and shrouding of the body before a Muslim burial. Bukhoor signifies care, of both the living and the dead. El Siddique’s interest in rituals and accounts of death and the afterlife stems from a profound personal ...
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