A Growing Library… With a Little Help from our Friends

Last week Villa Karo’s library received a fine donation from the University of Helsinki. This gift was passed to us through the helping hands of art historian Julia Donner who visited Villa Karo a month ago. Many, many thanks to Julia and the University of Helsinki! Now the books are waiting for eager couriers to carry them to Benin in their suitcases. I’m sure they’ll reach their destination in no time.

Art history, yes! And we must never forget about the children who may now hear and read stories in French from “366 contes de l’oreiller” along from the few dozen french-language children’s books that we already have in our library.

VK’s library holds currently about 2100 books. Each and every one of them  have been donated to our collections. Prose along with some poetry in Finnish is the most dominant part of what we have to offer right now, thanks to many writers who have visited our residence and to other donors such as LIKE publications and private people that have been helping us. Cheers to all of you! We also have many books about Africa in Finnish, English and French and a few (now twice as much!) about museology, art and especially African art. The French prose section of our library is limited to about 200 titles and very few of them are by African authors.

We are hoping to build a library that would suit the needs of both our scholarship holders and the people of Grand-Popo. What do we need?

1) Relevant and current encyclopedias especially in French, but also in English and Finnish. Internet access is becoming more and more common in Grand-Popo but is still quite expensive, not to mention the price of a computer that one must possess to be able to browse the web. And anyway: a book is always a book. It would be marvelous to offer to GP some encyclopedic literature that would have the entry “Benin”. The Encyclopedic series we have now knows only “Dahomey” which was Benin’s name until 1975. Information never goes old, but still…

2) Dictionaries. As many different types as there are and chiefly in French. A dictionnaire des locutions as well as a dictionnaire des noms propre would suit our library very well – not to mention many other possible ones… Perhaps a Larousse gastronomique would be nice as well… Lot’s of people in GP are interested in learning English, Spanish, Italian and German etc. (For some reason many people in Benin take me nowadays for a German and greet me by saying “Mein Freund!”, which is both very friendly and a bit confusing at the same time because I only know a few words of German. There has got to be something else, perhaps something in my demeanor… Who knoes what it is! But dictionaries in many languages – also in German – are nevertheless good.)

3) African novels in French. Needless to say, people always want to read about their own culture in a language they know. Wouldn’t you?

4) Children’s books in French. No explanations needed.

Although children’s books in GP’s most dominant local language called Mina would be even better. I don’t think there are any in the whole wide world, though. How come do I suddenly thank Mikael Agricola  for composing a written Finnish language in the XVI century that I’ve had the opportunity to learn to read and write as a kid? I also think about the Austrian-born music composer Herman Rechberger who compiled ten years ago the first Français-Mina dictionary while staying in GP.

Since I started about this matter,  I would also like to personally thank the Finnish author Anni Swan for her story Piilopirtin laspset and many other tales she wrote as well as lots of other Finns and Finnish translators who have produced me stuff to read and listen in my native tongue when I was growing up. Thank you Aila Nissinen for Hopeaveitsi and Kersti Juva for Taru sormusten herrasta. And here comes a question for our many Mina-speaking readers: why won’t you write down the stories you know? Or write your own ones? They are kind of important.

Well, what else do we need for the library?

5) Children’s school books. Very important. If you want to offer the books that are part of the official curriculum in Benin to VK’s library, do not hesitate. Many parents in GP can’t afford to buy the needed books to their children. Could we Europeans offer the children of GP access to these valuable things for development? Perhaps a couple copies of each of the needed books would help a couple dozens of children. This idea came out from the lips of VK’s transport manager Alphonse Bodjrenou. Good thinking, Alphonse!

6) DVDs. I’ve been asked quite a few times if VK’s library and movie nights could offer African films to their visitors. And I really don’t blame the ones asking. We have some African films in our collections, but new films would be very stimulating. We are also interested in any other kinds of quality films that aren’t of violent nature or don’t contain overtly sexual imagery.

7) Let people hear good music! Wanna share a part of your collections with the people in GP? We have a CD player but very few albums.

8) We also accept anything that is of good quality and could be useful in a library in Benin: fiction, non-fiction etc in any relevant language as well as maps, travel books etc. Also a nice globe would be great. If you know someone that has good things to spare, don’t hesitate to pass the word to that person.

So everybody! Books, CDs, DVDs, a library grant… Anything helps. And spread the word about our library that isn’t much yet, but could do a lot.

The easiest thing for us is to get the actual material, but VK also accepts monetary donations that are destined to a certain purpose such as the purchasing of school books for our library.

For any inquiries, do not hesitate to contact me at miikka.porsti(at)villakaro.org.

And what comes below is a treat for those our readers who already know medieval French. For the rest of you, you may get yourself a medieval French dictionary to get through this. And when you don’t need it anymore, I know many nice, eagerly studying people who will have use for it 6300 kilometres south from Helsinki.


Allez, on y va:

Hé Dieu, si j’eusse estudié,
Au temps de ma jeunesse folle,
J’eusse maison et couche molle.

    Mais quoy! je fuyoië l’escolle
    Comme fait le mauvaiz enffant
    En escripvant cette parolle
    A peu que le cueur ne me fent.

François Villon. Le testament, 22ème poème. XEe siècle.

Bonne semaine à vous tous !


Stipendit keväälle 2013 / Scholarships for Spring 2013

Kävele keskelle Villa Karon pihaa ja katso ylös! / Go to the middle of the Villa Karo yard and look up!


Minulla on kaksi kertaa vuodessa ilo ja kunnia tiedottaa Villa Karon ystävät ry:n myöntämistä uusista työskentelystipendeistä suomalais-afrikkalaiseen kulttuurikeskus Villa Karon residenssiin, Beniniin.

I am privileged to have the bi-annual honor and pleasure of announcing the new scholarship holders of the Finnish-African cultural centre Villa Karo’s residence, in Benin.

Here they are / tässä he ovat:

Eilittä, Leena: kirjallisuudentutkija / researcher in literature

Halonen, Aapo: muusikko / musician

Jauhiainen, Ilpo: muusikko, äänitaiteilija / musician, soundscape artist

Lindroos, Hannu: toimittaja, lehtikuvaaja / photojournalist

Oittinen, Tytti: teatteriohjaaja / theatre director

Retulainen, Anna: kuvataiteilija / artist

Smolander, Marjo: musiikkipedagogi / music pedagogue

Sundberg, Antti: mediatekniikan insinööri-opiskelija / student in media technology

Shimatsuka, Eri: tekstiilisuunnittelija / textile designer

Vuorinen, Tuukka (Tuukka Mustavuori): taidekasvattaja / art pedagogue

Aiemmin on kevääksi 2013 valittu seuraavat / previously chosen scholarship holders for next spring:

Henriksson, Dan: teatteriohjaaja / theatre director

Kaartinen, Pirkko: yhteiskuntatieteiden maisteri / master in social science

Sipola, Timo: toimittaja / journalist

Congratulations to all!

Onnittelut kaikille!

Syksyn 2012 stipendiaatit

Villa Karon syksyn 2012 stipendiaatit on valittu!

Syksyllä Villa Karoon lähtee työskentelemään seuraavat 15 suomalaista taiteilijaa, tutkijaa ja kirjoittajaa:
Valokuvaaja Kenneth Bamberg
Muusikko-säveltäjä Niina Susanna Hietala
Koreografi-tanssija Riikka Theresa Innanen
Yhteiskuntatieteen maisteri Eija Pirkko Inkeri Kaartinen
Käsikirjoittaja Anna Lappalainen
Taiteilija Ville Toivo Juhani Linna
Toimittaja Risto Lindstedt
Oik. kand., vapaa kirjoittaja Jaana-Mirjam Mustavuori
Freelancetaiteilija Maija Mustonen
Jazzmuusikko Mirja-Tuulikki Mäkelä-Dunkel
Uutis- ja dokumenttikuvaaja, muusikko Pete Näsman
Muusikko Vilma Elina Timonen
Valokuvaaja Miikka Kiminki
Tanssija Saku Koistinen
Tanssija Laura Vesterinen

Akasian toimitus onnittelee lämpimästi kaikkia valittuja!

Villa Karon mosaiikkipiha. Kuva: Anna Ovaska.

Villa Karon ystävät ry myöntää stipendejä suomalaisille taiteilijoille, tutkijoille ja muille kulttuurialan vaikuttajille eripituisiin työskentelyjaksoihin suomalais-afrikkalaiseen kulttuurikeskus Villa Karoon, Beniniin. Tähän mennessä stipendejä on myönnetty vuodesta 2000 lähtien 358 kappaletta. Haku on kaksi kertaa vuodessa ja seuraavat eli kevään 2013 stipendiaatit valitaan 15. syyskuuta päättyvässä haussa. Lisätietoja aiheesta täältä. ***

A Photographic Taste of May’s Concert

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Villa Karo offers live music and theatre on it’s stage at Lissa Gbassa every first Saturday of the month. On the 5th of May three groups performed there: Chin-system and toba -rhythms specialist Sossa Erevard also known as “Le vrai Schou”, a marionette troupe Thakamou Culture Arts that is organizing the Teni-Tedji marionette festival tour and finally Julie Dossou‘s gogohoun and salsa performance.

Thakamou Culture Arts and Teni-Tedji are also holding a marionette workshop for children in Villa Karo in a few weeks. To find more about Teni-Tedji, log in to Facebook and click here.

Photos by Anna Ovaska.

Villa Karo in May

One more month before it’s time for the last scholarship holders to leave Villa Karo’s residency and return to Finland. It’s been a good year with, as usual, many moments of happiness and times of being lost in translation, cultural faux-pas’ and moments of mutual understanding in Villa Karo. But it’s not the end of the year yet! Here’s what’s happening in the times to come.

This year’s second last sholarship holder translator, researcher Simo Määttä will reach Grand-Popo by the time I post this writing. He’ll be working at the residency for five weeks with a research project before coming back to Finland. Beninese painter Yves Midahuen, the last scholarship holder of this year, will arrive in Villa Karo on the 4th of May and stay there for four weeks. At the end of his stay he’ll put on an exhibition in Villa Karo’s Lissa Gbassa for the month of June. It’ll be this springs third and final exhibition in Villa Karo.

Fisher men by Yves Midahuen

Teni-Tedji, a marionette group, will be holding a workshop in Villa Karo for the children of Grand-Popo on the first weekend of May. We shall get back to you about this with pictures.

Villa Karo’s own multitalented board member Anna Ovaska and curator Tintti Timonen will be working on a new museum exhibition in Villa Karo’s museum during the month of May. The exhibition will open in September of this year to the people of Grand-Popo, scholarship holders and passing tourists. At the same time Anna will be laying down the foundations of Villa Karo’s upcoming first virtual exhibition. Yes, you heard me right! You’ll get to see what Villa Karo’s collections and the new exhibition has to offer even if you aren’t able to go and see by yourself! At the same time, hopefully, VK’s homepage’s appearance and content will be finally updated. The project is trarting now and will be finished by the end of the year.

But not all upcoming events are taking place in Benin. The 2nd of June Villa Karo will take part in a festival that will take place at Narinkkatori, in Helsinki. The other organisers are Walter ry, radio SPIN FM, 09 Helsinki Human Rights, Namika, Funk on ry and FIDA among others. We’ll have there our former scholarship holder Camilla Heidenberg performing and holding a workshop with her husband Georges Agbazahou. Also five artists affiliated with VK will take part in charity event with five graffiti painters. A big plate of street culture and sports with a flavouring of Villa Karo will be offered to you on Narinkkatori that day.

During the months of summer, although it’s quiet in VK, we’ll have a big piece of the centre’s heart here in Finland with us as VK’s director Kwassi has kindly agreed to lend us here our chère Georgette and cher Richard from VK. They will come here in July to meet friends and acquaint and learn from their Finnish colleagues in August. Welcome Georgette and Riku!

Tervetuloa Laurea!

Villa Karossa ollaan iloisia ja ylpeitä, sillä Laurea-ammattikorkeakoulu on liittynyt Villa Karon oppilaitosjäseneksi. Laurea kouluttaa mm. sosiaali-alan, liiketalouden, terveydenhoidon sekä matkailun ja tietotekniikan ammattilaisia. Yhteistyö Laurean kanssa mahdollistaa entistä leveämmän kulttuurisillan rakentamisen Suomen ja Länsi-Afrikan välille.

Suunnitelmia vasta luodaan, mutta tulevaisuus tuo tullessaan ainakin Laurean eri alojen opiskelijoiden opintomatkoja Beniniin.

Muita Villa Karon oppilaitosjäseniä ovat Kuvataideakatemia, Sibelius-Akatemia, Aalto yliopiston Insinööritieteiden korkeakoulu sekä Taiteiden ja suunnittelun korkeakoulu, Turun yliopisto, Åbo Akademi sekä Teatterikorkeakoulu.

Lisäksi Villa Karolla on joukko järjestöjäseniä: Finlands Svenska Författareföreningen, Nuorsuomalainen sanomalehtiyhdistys, Radio- ja televisiotoimittajien liitto, Suomen kirjailijaliitto, Suomen näytelmäkirjailijaliitto, Suomen Säveltäjät, Suomen taiteilijaseuran ateljeesäätiö, Suomen tanssitaiteilijaliitto, Suomen tietokirjailijat sekä Svenska Kvinnoförbundet.