November 30, 2017 from 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
CCS Bard, Classroom 102

Al-Madafeh: The Hospitality Room

A Lecture given by Sandi Hilal, the 2016-17 Keith Haring Fellow in Art and Activism

Located between the domestic and the public sphere, Al-Madafeh is in Arabic the living room, the room dedicated to hospitality. It is that part of the private house that has the potentiality to subvert the role of guest and host and to give different political and social meaning to the act of hospitality. The living room opens itself to host the guest, the foreigner, the outsider and functions as a representational space between the domestic and the public.

In a foreign country, access to public space is a challenge for refugees as they are expected to constantly perform the role of the “perfect guest” in order to be accepted. Turning private spaces, such as the living room, into social and political arenas, is often a response to this limitation of political agency in the public realm.

In the Arab world, the living room is a space that is constantly maintained and always ready with fruit, nuts and black coffee for the unexpected guest, who may knock on the door anytime during the day. Even in refugee camps, where space is extremely scarce, the living room remains the most important part of the house. In the absence of the State, the living room represents an available social and political space regardless of the general precarious conditions. Paradoxically, it may be the room that is used the least, yet it is the most symbolic, curated and cared for area of the house.

Sandi Hilal has developed together with Alessandro Petti a research-project based artistic practice that is both theoretically ambitious and practically engaged in the struggle for justice and equality. They founded Campus in Camps, an experimental educational program hosted in Dheisheh Refugee Camp in Bethlehem with the aims to overcome conventional educational structures by creating a space for critical and grounded knowledge production connected to greater transformations and the democratization of society. Camus in Camps has today offshoot in other Palestinian camps and is linked in a consortium with universities around the world. – – In 2007 with Eyal Weizman they founded DAAR (Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency) in Beit Sahour, Palestine, with the aim to combine an architectural studio and an art residency able to gathered together architects, artists, activists, urbanists, film-makers, and curators to work collectively on the subjects of politics and architecture –

Hilal was the head of the Infrastructure and Camp Improvement Program in the West Bank at UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) from 2008 to 2014. Hilal co-authored with Alessandro Petti and Eyal Weizman the book Architecture after Revolution (Sternberg, Berlin 2014) an invitation to rethink today’s struggles for justice and equality not only from the historical perspective of revolution, but also from that of a continued struggle for decolonization.

The Keith Haring Fellowship in Art and Activism is made possible through a five year-grant from the Keith Haring Foundation. The Keith Haring Fellowship is a cross-disciplinary, annual, visiting Fellowship for a scholar, activist, or artist to teach and conduct research at both the Center for Curatorial Studies and the Human Rights Project at Bard College. The Keith Haring Fellowship in Art and Activism was established to allow a distinguished leader in the field to investigate the role of art as a catalyst for social change, linking the two programs and presenting original research in an annual lecture.

For more information on The Keith Haring Foundation –

For more information on the Human Rights Project at Bard College –