6296 Kilometers up North

Being in Finland doesn’t necessarily mean being so far away from Villa Karo, Grand-Popo and Benin. This was noticed again yesterday, when Helsingin Juhlaviikkoklubi was filled with people who came to listen Beninese musician Alpha Omega singing and playing djembes and balafon. Familiar African rhythms and songs filled the club of the National Theater and in the end people were dancing as if they were in the coast of Golfe de Guinée, sand in their feet and warm wind blowing in the air. If we Finns are like jars with their lids still tightly closed, as Alpha had said (and we are, I completely agree), music and dance are most likely the best ways to open up those jars. And now, when autumn, winter and cold are approaching, it is good to gain energy through art and exchange of cultures – to be ever more able to open up to others.

The dialogue between Benin and Finland can be experienced right now also in Kiasma in the works of Romuald Hazoume and Georges Adéagbo who have been invited to participate in the Ars 2011 exhibition.

Last time I saw Hazoume’s work, I was in Porto Novo, where Hazoume’s recycled statues of petrol canisters stand in the yard of the palace of King Toffa (now Musée Honme) and tell the story of modernization, changes in environment and in traditions.  In Kiasma Hazoume exhibits his recycled masks and a large snake made of used tyres. Snakes are considered holy in Benin, and the idea is, that they don’t harm people unless they are harmed. The same philosophy expands to technology and markets, which are neither good nor bad in essence, but whose use is becoming more and more problematic all over the world.

In another room in Kiasma, Georges Adéagbo forms a dialogue between political histories of Benin and Finland. A room-sized collage consists of objects Adéagbo has collected in both countries, from fetish-statues to books and newspapers. To those, who happened to be in Benin last spring, familiar objects include the electoral poster of Yayi Boni, the president of Benin, and also a page of a report of an art workshop which took place in Villa Karo in January and was lead by Finnish-Beninese group of artists and art educators (Pekka Lehtimäki, Victor Amoussou and Leea Pienimäki-Amoussou, see Ateneum).

As it happens, also Victor Amoussou’s and Leea Pienimäki-Amoussou’s work can be seen soon in Finland, when their exhibition opens on 3rd September in Hämeenlinna. Like Hazoume’s, Amoussou’s work treats the subjects of modernization and change. His perspective is optimistic and two-fold: looking back to the traditions and history and trying to build bridges in time and between cultures. His animistic and environmental ethics is well visible in his work, as well as his ability to form a dialogue between African and European traditions and philosophies and make the connections more intelligible.

Anna Ovaska

Alpha Omega playing with Georges Agbazahou at Juhlaviikkoklubi, Helsinki. Photo by Pekka Lehtimäki.

Advertisements

September Dream

Creative ideas animated by shear determination are the only path to courageously accept whatever comes your way via Nature. It’s not easy to convince your entourage to accept the reality of life. Significant, positive consequences resulting from exchange of opinions could lead to a wide range of opportunities full of great value to human race.  Bright future does not depend on running around like hell to amass wealth but the capacity to live and share ideas with others thus creating a mutual understanding for peaceful cohabitation.

In some days to come, Finnish-African Cultural Centre “Villa Karo” will be receiving an African stipendiate, Felix AGOSSOU, a saxophonist who has knowledge in handling many instruments. Very talented Felix plays with most of the popular bands in Benin. He will be collaborating with two musicians from Finland; a rock-musician, drummer from one of the most popular rock-bands in Finland with concerts all over Europe, the other is an experimental and very creative composer who makes music from all kinds of instruments. Felix a Fôn by origin started his musical carrier with great names in music both from the cities and hinterlands of the republic of Benin.  Much is awaited from this multi instrumentalist who looks forward to discover other experiences in the music world especially from a Nordic country like Suomi.

Apart from painters, sculptors etc, this is the first time Villa Karo is receiving an African musician as resident artist and fortunately Felix is performing  with Jonny Sourou on the 3rd September 2011 concert that opens Villa Karo’s year. Let’s wait and see what happens. Inga Rikandi, Katja Lunden , Osmo  Räihälä, Noêl Saizonou , George Agbazahou, Abdoulai & co know what I mean by this kind of collaboration.  Dance with me now!!!! Mä olen mies, mä olen mies, jolle ei koskaan tapahdu mitäää.  Holalaaaaaaaa!! Elàlézolooo!!!.

Kwassi  D. AKPLADOKOU

felix agossou

La rentrée de la Villa Karo 2011/2012

Sylvie and Georgette discussing September 2011After a long silence that prevailed due to annual holidays and repairs, daily operations of Finnish-African Cultural Centre is due to resume very soon.

A lot had gone under the bridge related to commercial activities in Grand-popo with those who do business with the centre. Hotels, Restaurants, supermarkets, guides & zemidjans all complain of our long holiday. One can hardly get potato on the stalls due to the absence of stipendiates and the kitchen of Villa karo who patronize all these places to buy water, wine, bread, fruits. Even the lady next to Villa karo who sells cooked rice and beans personally complained by stopping me on my way home one evening. In her words “ quand est-ce que les Yovos vont arriver” she even mentioned names like Miikka , Joona, Valteri, Johanna Salo & Katia, Anna Ovaska who were regular costumers. In short the whole Grand-popo is longing to see Finns back to business.

Inside the premises of CCFA, the whole staff timidly resumed essentially taking stock of equipments that need upgrading and maintenance like fridges that work ten months non-stop, washing machine and other electrical appliances. Edoh, Papa, Bonaventure full of enthusiasm led by in fatigable Boniface try to comb every sector in the whole house under the keen eyes of the Chief operating Officer just to make sure nothing is left unchecked. Ladies at the administration, Georgette Museum caretaker, Yvette responsible for kitchen, and Agathe cleaning lady, regrouped themselves under the supervision of Syvie Ahouangassi to access the situation concerning their respective sectors. I counted ten dogs that regularly come to Villa karo, turn over baskets and dustbins in search for leftovers. Alphonse the transport manager is timing his turn to meet stipendiates in Cotonou via Aeroport Bernadin Gantin on the 30th of august and Richard the bookkeeper waiting his turn to bill them for services like laundry, excursions and drinks. Aboudoulai and Boube are expecting to make new friends.

Come the 1st of September, the first stipendiates will be privileged to receive all the good energies stored for the past two months via sodabi fish soup and fufu. Adieu les Vacances.
Kwassi

Finnish-Beninese Co-operation

This is a great example of the co-operation between Villa Karo’s scholarship holders and Grand-Popo’s local musicians: Inga, Lauri, Adja and Georges. The video is made by another scholarship holder, Antti Seppänen. They all were in Villa Karo in the first months of 2011.

La Force Lumineuse from Antti Seppänen on Vimeo.

The Advent of September… and a new year for VK!

It won’t be long before the first of this fall’s scholarship holders will arrive in Villa Karo. Before that the annual preparations will begin. Rooms have to be tidied-up, the lawn of the garden has to be cut down, all sorts of small things have to be made. An energetic buzzing in the now empty rooms shall start again when Villa Karo’s driver, Alphonse, will steer VK’s grey mininus in front of the main entrance and the first comers will be welcomed by director Kwassi, program manager Sylvie, Richard the accountant, museum responsible Georgette, caretakers Boniface and Bonaventure, Yvette the cook, cleaning lady Agathe, gardeners Papa and Edoh and the new finnish trainee among others.

At the same time, the cultural program offered by Villa Karo for the people of Grand-Popo this year will commence. Live music or theatre once a month, weekly movie nights, the museum and the constantly growing library will give a sheerful taste to Grand-Popo’s life again this year. And who knows what else will come? Last year VK organised a drawing competition for local kids and a workshop was held for the winners of the competition for them to pursue their creative work on the stories and myths around the birth of the world. The outcoming of that workshop was displayed in the art museum of Ateneum in Helsinki last spring. Will friends of Villa Karo see more of young african artists in finnish museums this year? That is to see!

But let’s wait just another few weeks and stay tuned on Africa and Villa Karo. In the mean time, we can lend some of that never-ending African energy by watching Antti Seppänen’s fantastic film on Grand-Popo’s football school. Antti is a filmmaker by trade and he was one of last spring’s scholarship holders in VK. Thank you, Antti!

Cheers! A bientôt! Here you go!
Grand-Popo école de football!!!

Miikka