Big news!
We are invited to Exhibit in
the helsinki biennial 2023


Motif Art Studio is a space for contemporary art practices, interaction and experimentation located in Samara refugee camp, southwest Algeria. The studio was established in 2016 over one full year of making (and breaking!). It was designed and built by Sahrawi artist Mohamed Sleiman Labat who constructed it almost entirely from discarded materials. The process of creating Motif Art Studio was a work of art by the artist himself, as well as an experience meant to equip the artist with the skills, the knowledge and the energy to experiment, learn, question and open up potential possibilities in response to different local environmental, social and political challenges facing the artist and his community in the Hamada Desert.

The studio area includes the 6 × 6 meters of the physical studio, a large junkyard (my gold mine of free material supplies!) and a newly established family garden to experiment with growing food locally as part of the studio practice. The studio was built from discarded materials of car parts, broken furnisher and the fabric of the old tents. Some parts went into the studio frame structure, others into its insulation while some materials actually went into making the tools with which the studio itself was built (Yes, I made my own tools with which I built the studio!). The Studio design took inspiration from some design features of the current Sahrawi tent design which has four doors. This is a very practical feature in the desert. When the sandstorms blow from any direction, we can just close the door facing them and open the opposite (I love the adaptability of the tent!).

Throughout the studio construction Sleiman Labat attempted to address a number of issues related to the role of art in the Sahrawi community, and how it can contribute to solving some of the everyday issues and challenges in people’s lives. Art in the Sahrawi community is still largely related to traditional aesthetics. Motif Art Studio is an experimental lab that encourages contemporary art practices but with a philosophy of appreciation to the Sahrawi traditions and the oral knowledge. We believe that art is not for entertainment; art has a mission to get us to experience things in a way that helps us ask questions, solve problems, create abundance, team up with each other, learn from one another, and enjoy what we have been offered in this short journey we call life.

Learning through action and interaction is a key issue Sleiman Labat tries to address through his art practice. Learning should not be limited to the designated spaces we call “schools”; it could be experienced outside the walls of the classroom. Art can offer experimental activities to feed the creative process. This is something Sleiman Labat was experiencing through the studio construction.

“When I started building Motif Art Studio, I didn’t have some of the practical skills required for some of the construction parts, but I allowed myself to get closer to the materials I was working with. Eventually I started to slowly familiarize myself with their nature and how to approach them”  Mohamed Sleiman Labat.

Another key issue I got to develop during the studio construction was problem solving. As there was a lot of experimentation, there was a lot of challenges too, I took the time to develop solutions to those problems and that became part of the process. The solutions had to be devised from whatever I could find.

The studio inauguration was in April 2017 after one full year of construction. Upon completion, the studio started to host different art projects and collaborations.

The studio now provides access to different art materials and tools for guest artists to create their projects. The studio also provides educational sessions in different art genres such as photography, sculpture, films and installations; it’s also become a space for meetings and discussions as well as art talks and contemplation.

After many challenges to grow the garden, it’s now thriving with a diverse range of vegetables, fruits and herbs for the family and guests to enjoy.

Navigate through the different sections of the website to learn more about the past and current projects in Motif Art Studio.

Artist portfolio & cv

sahrawi partners & collaborators