Verstas yard: PhosFATE-nomad tent

Photo: Sanni Seppo

PhosFATE Art and Research project Mohamed Sleiman Labat Pekka Niskanen Art School MAA The exhaustion and processing of finite resources such as phosphate is leading to some terrible consequences on humans as well as on the environment. Man made phosphate processing from agricultural activities ends up in the Baltic Sea in big loads, and is creating eutrophication; one of the biggest problems in the Baltic Sea. Thousands of miles away, a huge source of phosphate rock is located in the desert in the Northern west part of Africa and is causing the dislocation of a Nomadic community. It’s a story hardly known about in the news, but which actually has strong connections to food and agriculture in Europe.

The art project is multilevel and the questions it encapsulates are manifold. It deals with Western Sahara, a source of phosphate rock, but also with environmental challenges, climate change and sea eutrophication caused by phosphate in the Baltic Sea. The project also highlights the impossibility of a nomadic lifestyle in Western Sahara, from which the Saharawis have fled to the Hamada Desert in Algeria. Morocco has occupied a large part of Western Sahara because of its interests in phosphate mines. Food, its ethics and ecology are key issues in Northern Europe. Food and its production are also political issues, affecting our understanding of justice.

The Saharawis are nomadic but no nomadic lifestyle goes together with the state of refuge, as the Saharawis remain in the refugee camp, whose once temporary status has become permanent. Mohamed Sleiman Labat: “As much as it is important for me to share the story of phosphate from my part of the world and its effects on my people’s fate, it’s also important for me to learn about the story of phosphate in different places. I see the pixel in front of me, you see the pixel in front of you, but we both need to see the bigger picture. I hope that the discussions in Helsinki will equip me with the understanding to take back with me to the desert to share with my community.”