Motif Art Studio is a small space for art creation and art education, built by Sahrawi artist Mohamed Sleiman Labat. It is located in Samara Camp near Tindouf, southwest Algeria. The studio was established in 2016 after one full year of making (and breaking!). It was created almost entirely from discarded materials found in Samara Camp. The process of creating such a space in itself was an art experience meant to equip the artist with the skills, the knowledge and the energy to experiment, question and open up to unexpected discoveries.
The studio area includes the 6 × 6 meters of the physical studio, a large junkyard and an experimental garden to explore food production as part of the studio. The studio is built from discarded materials of car parts, broken furnisher and the textile of the old tents. Some of these discarded went into building the frame of the studio, some into the insulation and others into making the tools with which the studio itself was built (Yes, I made my own tools to build the studio!). The Studio got some of its design features from the structure of current Sahrawi tent design with the four doors feature. This is a very practical feature in the desert. When the wind blows from any direction, you can just close the door facing that direction and open the opposite one.
Throughout the studio construction, Mohamed Sleiman attempted to address a number of issues related to the role of art in the community, and how it can contribute to some of the everyday issues and challenges in people’s lives. Art in the Sahrawi community is still largely related to traditional aesthetics. The studio as an experimental sight encourages new art practices beyond traditional aesthetics. We believe that art is not just for entertainment; art has a mission to get us to experience things in a way that help us ask questions, keep the process of learning going and feed the curiosity and thirst for new insights, knowledge and understanding.
Learning through action and interaction is a key issue Mohamed Sleiman 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 could offer experimental activities to feed the creative process when people are encouraged to engage in such processes. This is something Mohamed Sleiman was experiencing throughout the studio construction. Up to then, he lacked some of the skills required for some of the construction parts, he allowed himself to get closer to the materials he was working with and allowed connections to take place. Eventually he started to slowly familiarize himself with their nature and how to approach them and then how to maneuver them. Another key issues Mohamed got to develop during the studio construction was problem solving. As there was a lot of experimentation, there was a lot of challenges too. The artist took his time to develop custom solutions to those problems as he goes. The solutions had to be devised from whatever he could find.
Such creations were practical responses to some of the technical challenges, but they often also created aesthetic interventions meant to, one, encourage more colors to be seen, especially in a desert devoid of colors. Second, it help people see, think and talk about the colors in our lives.
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 provides access to different art materials and tools for the founder artist as well as to guest artists to create their own projects. The studio also provides educational sessions in different art genres, from photography, to sculpture and installations as well as a space for meeting and discussions to take place.