September 1st, 2018

Located between the domestic and the public sphere, Al-Madhafah, in Arabic, is the living room dedicated to hospitality. It has the potential to subvert the role of guest and host and give a different socio-political meaning to the act of hospitality. It seeks to mobilize the condition of permanent temporariness as an architectural and political concept able to challenge the binaries of inclusion and exclusion, public and private, guest and host. It activates the rights of temporary people to host and not to be eternally a guest, the right to claim life in the new destination but without feeling obliged to revoke the desire to belong to the life back home

Al Madhafah the living room is a project created by Sandi Hilal, based on her experience conducting fieldwork for the Public Art Agency Sweden with refugees in the city of Boden, Sweden, in November 2016. Boden is a former military town located in northern Sweden, 80 kilometers from the arctic circle. From being a military town, it has now become an important reception center for asylum seekers. The project is inspired by a story about a Syrian refugee couple Yasmeen and Ibrahim, who had moved to Boden from Syria two years previously, and drew on the tradition of hospitality, never accepting that they should give up their right to be hosts in their new home. They continued what was an important part of their life in Syria, opening up their living room to host both Swedes and others. The living room, when opening itself to host the stranger guest, functions as a self-representational space, that has the potential to subvert the role of guest and host and give a different socio-political meaning to the act of hospitality. The possibility of hosting had become, for them, a way to regain access to their lost personal and collective history, combining their lost life in Syria with their new life in Sweden. By exercising their right of hosting and activating their living room, Yasmeen and Ibrahim no longer felt themselves to be statistics, passive guests in Sweden but to be owners of their own story.

Over the past two years, the Public Art Agency Sweden, Bodenbo, Havremagasinet and the Defense Museum Boden have collaborated with the architect Sandi Hilal and  Yasmeen Mahmoud and Ibrahim Muhammad Haj Abdullah in the Al Madhafah / Living Room art project. With common forces, a local living room has been created, a place where conversation, cooking, and learning become art and the exchange of knowledge. Al Madhafah / The Living Room in the Yellow House at Prästholmen is a work of art, but also a living room open to those who want to host new encounters.

Living Room, a short film about the first phase of the project directed by Ana Naomi de Sousa, was commissioned by ArkDesk, Stockholm, with the support of Public Art Agency Sweden.

Al Madhafah is a project by DAAR: Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti in collaboration with Yasmeen Mahmoud, Ibrahim Muhammad Haj Abdulla, and Ayat Al-Turshan. A network of various living rooms activated simultaneously in five different locations:  the house of Yasmine and Ibrahim (1)  and The Yellow House in Boden supported by the Public Art Agency Sweden (2),  ArkDes Museum in Stockholm (3)  Fawwar refugee camp in south of the West Bank (4),  and in the  living room of Sandi and Alessandro in Stockholm supported by the Arab Fund for Art and Culture (AFAC) (5). The five spaces interact, inspire, and feed each constantly.

Al Madhafah / The Living Room in Boden is included in Art Happens:
Art Happens (2016-2018) is part of the Swedish government initiative Äga rum, where the Public Art Agency Sweden was commissioned to produce examples of public art in the million program. After a long selection process, 15 areas were selected for implementation. Read more about Art Happens at