Nomadic Seeds is part of the artistic research project PhosFATE that addresses key issues of phosphorus pollution in the Baltic Sea and the exile of the Saharawi refugees living in southwest Algeria. The Saharawi refugee camps and the Baltic Sea region share the problems of phosphate fertilizers even though the consequences are very different. PhosFATE seeks to unfold the story of this valuable mineral through interconnected layers: evoking understanding of ecological practices, the very food on our tables, world politics and economics, and the everyday stories we tell. The project involves special and unpaired connections: a sea whose bottom is turning into a desert, and a desert deprived of its own phosphate yet blooming with thousands of family gardens planted by a community that never settled down to farm. An artist and researcher, Pekka Niskanen works and lives in Helsinki by the Baltic Sea. A poet and artist, Mohamed Sleiman Labat was born in a refugee camp in the Hamada desert in Algeria where he currently works as well.

PhosFATE sheds light on the global environmental problems from which indigenous and ethnic groups have suffered for decades. Many of the nomadic communities that have been forced to settle down possess experiences, knowledge and stories that are important for our time. The global economy’s dependence on raw materials benefits some of the world’s population, but often overshadows the lives of minorities and their knowledges. Securing access to raw materials is important to Western societies. Quite often it forces populations out of their native areas. This can result to irreversible changes in the lifestyle of those groups to whom the colonized land belongs, as is the case with the Saharawis.

The artistic research project is supported by Kone Foundation. Other funders for the project have been Perpetuum Mobile, Saastamoinen Foundation, Arts Promotion Centre Finland and Oskar Öflunds Stiftelse.

(Front page photo by Mohamed Sleiman Labat)