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Empty Vessels: Matthew Galloway & Desert Narratives: Mohamed Sleiman Labat

Website Matthew Galloway Empty Vessels 2023 detail

Matthew Galloway, film still from Empty Vessels, 2023.
Image courtesy of the artist.

Hakihea 2023 – 10 Poutūterangi 2024
9 December 2023 – 10 March 2024

Hei tūhura i te whakaputa kai o te ao, he whakawhitinga kōrero a Empty Vessels and Desert Narratives i waenganui i te ringatoi o Aotearoa, a Matthew Galloway me te tohunga toi Sahrawi Western Saharan a Mohamed Sleiman Labat. Kua roa te tokorua nei e wānanga ana mai anō i tō rāua tūtakitanga i te 2016 mō ngā tirohanga rerekē ki te whakawhirinakitanga o Aotearoa ki te toka pūtūtaewhetū mai i te Hauauru o Sahara. Ko te pākawa tūtaewhetū he toka kohuke e hei hanga i te whakahaumako, he wāhi tōna ki te ahumahi ahuwhenua o Aotearoa. Engari, ko te rauemi kei te whakahaeretia e Morocco ki te rohe, kua panaia atu te iwi Sahrawi i ō rātou whenua.

I te 2022, nōna e noho ana ki Ōtepoti, i timata a Galloway ki te tuhi i ngā nekehanga o ngā kaipuke e mau ana i te pūtūtaewhetū mai i te Hauauru o Sahara ki te kuiti o Otago. Koinei ngā kaipuke ka ū tuatahi ki ngā takutai o Aotearoa ki Ahuriri, te tauranga o Ahuriri, i mua i te neke whakatetonga. I roto i te taiwhanga, kua whakawhanakehia e Galloway tetahi whakaurunga e whai ana i te haere o ēnei kaipuke, me te whakaatu anō i ngā tau 10 o ngā raraunga kaipuke e kīia ana - nā te kaha o te pēhanga a te iwi mō ngā tikanga o tēnei hokohoko - te kamupene whakahaumako o Aotearoa, Ravensdown, kāore i te kaha whakamahi pūtūtaewhetū i tēnei rohe.

Kei roto anō ko Desert Narratives, he kiriata pakipūmeka nā Sleiman Labat. Mai i te whenua, i roto i ngā puni o Sahrawi kei Algeria, ka aro te kiriata ki te pūtūtaewhetū me te whakatipu kai i te koraha, te raranga i ngā kōrero maha mō ngā matūriki onepū, ngā tipu, ngā tāngata me te kohuke. Ka kitea ngā hononga i te whakawā rauropi me ngā tikanga o te whenua mō te mōhio me te noho ki te ao, te whakapātari koroni me te taiao i roto i ngā tangohanga kohuke.

Kei Te Whanganui-a-Tara a Matthew Galloway e noho ana, e mahi ana. Hei āna mahi rangahau ka whakamahia ngā taputapu me ngā tikanga hoahoa ānō he ētita. Te nuinga o te wā ko te whare toi te horopaki. Mā tēnei e kitea ai te hirahiratanga o te hoahoa me te whakaatu.

He kaitoi ataata Sahrawi me te kaitito a Mohamed Sleiman Labat, kei te puni o Sahrawi ki Algeria ia e noho ana. I whānau mai, ā, i whakatipuhia ki ēnei puni. I te 2016, i muri i te putanga o tana ihu i te Whare Wananga o Batna, Algeria, me tana tohu mō ngā tuhinga reo Ingarihi, ka hoki a Sleiman Labat ki tona hapori. He mea hanga e Sleiman Labat he hapori, he taiwhanga toi hoki e kīia nei ko Motif Art Studio i te puni o Samara. Ko te taiwhanga nei he mea hanga mai i ngā rawa kua makaia, ā, he mea kohi e Sleiman Labat.


Exploring the shifting political grounds of global food production, Empty Vessels and Desert Narratives is a dialogue between Aotearoa New Zealand artist Matthew Galloway and Sahrawi Western Saharan artist Mohamed Sleiman Labat. The two, who have had an ongoing correspondence since meeting in 2016, present different perspectives on Aotearoa’s reliance on phosphate rock from Western Sahara. Phosphate is mineral rock used to make fertiliser, partly fuelling Aotearoa’s high-performing agricultural industry. However, the resource is controlled by Morocco’s violent occupation of the region, which has displaced the Sahrawi people from their land.

In 2022, while living in Ōtepoti Dunedin, Galloway began recording the movement of ships carrying phosphate from the Western Sahara to the Otago Peninsula. These ships first dock in New Zealand shores at Ahuriri, Napier’s port, before moving south. In the gallery, Galloway has developed an installation tracing the movement of these ships, while also displaying 10 years of shipping data that seems to suggest that — in the face of growing public pressure over the ethics of this trade — New Zealand fertiliser company, Ravensdown, may be moving away from using phosphate from this region.

Also included is Desert Narratives, an experimental documentary film by Sleiman Labat. From on the ground in the Sahrawi refugee camps located in Algeria, the film looks at the story of phosphate and growing food in the desert, weaving together multiple narratives about sand particles, plants, human and mineral displacement. The film explores connections between ecological justice and indigenous ways of knowing and being in the world, challenging colonial and environmental violence in mineral extractions.

Matthew Galloway lives and works in Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington. His research-based practice employs the tools and methodologies of design in an editorial way, and often within a gallery context. This way of working emphasises design and publishing as an inherently political exercise.

Mohamed Sleiman Labat is a Sahrawi visual artist and a poet, based in the Sahrawi refugee camps in Algerian territory. He was born and raised in these camps. In 2016, after graduating from Batna University, Algeria, with a degree in English literature, Sleiman Labat returned to his community. Sleiman Labat has built a multipurpose community and artist studio space called Motif Art Studio in the Samara camp. The studio itself is built from discarded materials which Sleiman Labat has collected.


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