Mohamed Sleiman Labat

Artist Short Bio & CV

Mohamed Sleiman Labat is a Sahrawi multidisciplinary artist, filmmaker, writer & translator. Born and raised in the Sahrawi refugee camps southwest Algeria. He now runs Motif Art Studio; a small art space built entirely from discarded materials following destructive floods that hit the refugee camps in Tindouf in 2015. His art draws upon the past and present life of the Sahrawi people. He has been exploring these interconnected topics through different art practices including filmswriting and community-based art.

He works across multiple disciplines. Mohamed experiments with different creative practices to investigate the multi-layered political, environmental and social issues affecting his local community in the desert and the world at large. He also works on preserving the oral knowledge and traditions of the Sahrawi people. He documents poems, stories, interviews, testimonies and narrations such as the Nomadic Calendar. To decolonize his art and research, he leans on these oral references and materials that better represent the Sahrawi people.

He recently started to experiment with local food production as part of the studio practice. He has been following the emerging phenomenon of small-scale family gardens in his community in the Hamada Desert. He takes part in it and sees it as a promising potential to address issues of food security, environmental change and community resilience.

Following a three-year artistic research project of PHOSfate in Finland, which dealt with phosphate and its impact on two different environments; the Baltic Sea and Western Sahara, he is devoting more time and effort to research and practice local food growth. As the Sahrawi people engage in this small-scale farming, they are developing local knowledge of how to farm in a desert with pressing environmental challenges. The Sandoponic garden model is a newly developed solution in the Sahrawi community. Mohamed Sleiman Labat and Pekka Niskanen were invited by the Helsinki Art Museum to exhibit in Helsinki Biennial 2023, they proposed a PHOSfate Sandoponic garden installation in Valisaari. His new film DESERT PHOSfate weaves through narratives of human and mineral displacement, sand particles, plants and community resilience. Both the film and garden are currently exhibited in Luleå Biennial 2024, Sweden.

Mohamed has exhibited internationally, in Finland, Sweden, the US, Canada, the UK, Switzerland and New Zealand.

Photo Credit: Julian Salinas

AWARDs, GRANTS & RESIDENCIES

2024 Prince Claus Fund Mentorship Award, Cultural & Artistic Responses to the Environmental Crisis (1 year)
2023 Atelier Mondial –International Arts Exchange Program. Basel, Switzerland (2 months)
2020 Oskar Öflund Stiftelse (PhosFATE Research Group)
2020 Perpetuum Mobile Artist in Residence (PM) Turku & Helsinki, FI (4 month residency)
2020 Saastamoinen Foundation Artist in Residence, Turku & Helsinki (4 month grant)
2020 Saari Residence by Kone Foundation, Perpetuum Mobile (PM) Finland (2 months residency)
2019 PhosFATE Artistic Research grant with Pekka Niskanen, funded by Kone Foundation (3 years)
2019 BioArt Society Residency with Godzilla Floating Research Platform
2019 Lauttasaari Manor Residence, Kone Foundation, Helsinki, FI (4 months residency)
2018 Lush Spring Prize, with Jewellers of the Desert, London, UK.
2017 Afkar Fellowship, Wassabi, New Silk Road, Swedish Institute, What Took You So Long, Tunisia.