Robin Kahn


with The National Union of Women from Western Sahara
The Free Territories of the Western Sahara, Africa

As a guest artist selected to participate in the “Art & Human Rights Festival” Artifariti, Robin Kahn spent a month in 2009 with Sahrawi families living in the Tindouf Refugee Camps and within the “Liberated Territory” of Western Sahara. There she created a cookbook that explores the Sahrawis’ connection to food as a ways of tracing their identity and the women's use of hospitality as a means for dialogue and community building. By combining the sparse materials available locally, she collaged photos, histories, and drawings into a 50 page recipe book that examines the art of Sahrawi food production: how kitchens are improvised, food is procured and prepared, and traditional dishes are innovated from humanitarian aid.  Her publication Dining in Refugee Camps: The Art of Sahrawi Cooking is a testament to the daily struggles of Sahrawi women to provide sustenance, fortitude, and comfort, and a non-violent way forward within a compromised society.


This past Summer, Kahn collaborated with a group of Sahrawi women to create an installation and a series of events for dOCUMENTA(13). Their project, “The Art of Sahrawi Cooking” was premised on the idea that in Hassanya, (the Arabic dialect of the Sahrawi people) the word “jaima” means both “family” and “tent”. The installation which erected a  hand-sewn tent  (the center of Sahrawi family life) in the soil of the Karlsraue Park in Kassel, transmitted the warmth and comfort of a typical home-in-exile found in the sands of Refugee Camp 27. With its interior glowing as if dipped in saffron, it emitted an inviting beacon of warmth and comfort to all the visitors travelling through the exhibition’s expansive grounds.


Throughout its tenure at dOCUMENTA13), the jaima generated projects and presentations by artists, anthropologists, policy makers, and others who ascribe to the artistry and poetics of Sahrawi peace and hospitality. These events are bringing the plight of the Sahrawi people to a global stage and creating a bridge of visibility and understanding between different cultures.