10.3. — 2.4.2023

Pekka Niskanen & Mohamed Sleiman Labat: NOMADIC SEEDS,
Leonor Ruiz Dubrovin,
Jenni Haili:
Voyage Out

  • Photo: Mohamed Sleiman Labat

  • Photo: Leonor Ruiz Dubrovin

  • Jenni Haili: Voyage outFanny (2022), märkälevyambrotyypit, 24 x 18 cm


Small scale family gardens started to emerge in the Sahrawi refugee camps in the Hamada Desert, southwest Algeria around 2002. Leading figures in the process are Sahrawi agricultural engineers and gardeners who have been researching and developing the garden practices together with the families. The theories and practices have become rulebased knowledge in the community.

Gardens and agricultural knowledge are starting to change the food production for this community where dependency on international aid has been the case since the arrival of the Sahrawi to the refugee camps in 1975. Earlier the Sahrawi were pastoralist nomads in Western Sahara. Pekka Niskanen and Mohamed Sleiman Labat follow in their artistic research project the multi-layered story of phosphate in the Baltic region as well as in the Sahrawi Refugee camps in Hamada Desert. The project deals with phosphate and its effects on two vastly different environments. Phosphate from Western Sahara has ended up in the Baltic Sea to cause eutrophication.

Pekka Niskanen: In the previous research on “Family Gardens, an Emerging Discourse in the Sahrawi Community” Niskanen and Mohamed Sleiman Labat have observed the emergence of small scale family gardens in the Saharawi community in the Hamada Desert. The article appreciates how gardens and agricultural knowledge are starting to change people’s perception about food production and diet. Especially for this community where dependency on international aid has been the case since the arrival of the Saharawi to the refugee camps in Algeria in 1975. Niskanen was an artist in residence at Villa Lante at the end of summer 2022 invetigating community gardens in Rome.

Mohamed Sleiman Labat: Born and raised in the Sahrawi Refugee Camps southwest Algeria, my art draws upon the past and present life of the Sahrawi people. In 2015 I created Motif Art Studio after destructive floods in Samara Camp. The studio was built from the discarded materials and broken furniture. The studio organizes different art collaborations, interactive sessions and art talks. It also includes an experimental garden to grow vegetables and plants next to the studio. The garden provides some food for our family as well as an escape from the harsh desert hot environment. My art practice aims to address pressing social and environmental issues.


The exhibition will consist of oil paintings that will interlock to form installations. It will revolve around the notion of identity and will explore different concepts such uniqueness, sameness, alterity, alienation…

As a whole, the works will form a fictitious social scenario where different roles and idealized identities will interrelate with each other. Oil paintings of different dimensions will represent a series of scenes and portraits that will form a narrative unit that will go beyond the real, promoting the irrational and dreamlike.

My work is formed by the synthesis of a variety of dualities such as the representative and the suggestive, reality and fiction. The paintings collapse these antagonistic dichotomies that dialogue with each other in order to create alternative conceptual spaces.

Leonor Ruiz Dubrovin (b. 1978) lives and works in Helsinki. She graduated (MFA) from the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts in 2008 and has since then been exhibiting her work in collective and individual exhibitions in different galleries and museums in Finland, Spain, Austria, Denmark and Germany. Such as Taidesalonki Husa, Helsinki Art Museum, Korjaamo Galleria, Galleri Elverket (Pro Artibus Foundation), Finland, Galleri Heike Arndt in Berlin and Denmark, Galerie Toolbox, Berlin, Finnish Cultural Institute in Madrid and Espacio Alexandra, Santander, Spain. Her work has been acquired by several Public and Private collections in Finland and internationally such as the Jenny ja Antti Wihuri Foundation Collection, Pro Artibus Foundation Collection , Finnish State Art Deposit Collection, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma (deposition) of Päivi and Paavo Lipponen Trust’s Art Collection and the Finnish Art Society, Finland.


Jenni Haili‘s photo installation Voyage Out is based on the emigration journeys of her great-great-aunt Fanny and her great-aunt Signe to America.