Wonderful tunes from beautiful birds, terrific waves hitting the shores, whistling breeze penetrating studios upstairs are some typical feelings awaiting our new scholarship holders arriving at Grand-Popo soon for this fall 2012.

Staff members are knocking heads together to ensure a perfect reopening of Villa Karo’s doors for our daily activities. Painters, Carpenters, Gardeners are all striving to to knock the last nail home for readiness. Welcome all for a new season!


Workshop with the Thakamou Culture Arts

On 19th of May Villa Karo participated in the finale of the Teni-Tedji Marionette Festival, which was organized for the third time in Benin by association Thakamou Culture Arts and it’s director Jude Zounmenou. Earlier in May Thakamou performed at the concert in Villa Karo, and now it was time to let the local children and high school students participate in the act – and they were many!

The rain forced us indoors in the beginning, but it didn’t stop people from playing, singing and dancing. Familiar songs and rhythms invited the children to try the marionettes, and the artists from Thakamou group taught us how the puppets are moved and how a performance is made.

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After the workshop Teni-Tedji Festival had a succesful ending, as the performers gave one last show for the children. Next year we’ll see the 4th edition of the festival, and we warmly welcome Thakamou Culture Arts back to Villa Karo!

Here’s also a peak to Thakamou group’s project in 2011. This year’s theme in the Teni-Tedji festival was the treatment of disabled people in the society and an effort to enhance their well-being. We’ll see what next year brings!

Tulevia tapahtumia Suomessa / Upcoming Events in Finland: Helsinki Street Festival & Bridge IV (by Victor Amoussou & Leea Pienimäki-Amoussou)

Tänä lauantaina kannattaa suunnata Narinkkatorille kello 13 alkaen! Helsinki Street Festival -tapahtumaan nimittäin osallistuu paljon villakarolaisia: World Music System eli Georges Agbazahou, Camilla Heidenberg, Faride Lala, Jeanette Heidenberg ja Sara Estlander esittävät musiikkia, tanssia sekä pitävät työpajoja. Graffitikilpailussa mukana ovat puolestaan Leea Pienimäki-Amoussou, Victor Amoussou ja Anu Nirkko!

Ja ensi viikon tiistaina 5.6. avautuu lisäksi Victor Amoussoun ja Leea Pienimäki-Amoussoun näyttely SILTA / BRIDGE / PASSERELLE IV: Hwénouho (Auringon puhe / The Talk of the Sun / La parole du soleil) Rööperin taidesalongissa. Avajaiset ovat tiistaina klo 17-19 ja näyttely on avoinna heinäkuun alkuun saakka. Tervetuloa!

Kutsu / Invitation to SILTA / BRIDGE / PASSERELLE IV

Welcome to Narinkkatori, Helsinki, next Saturday at 1pm and after: Villa Karo -people will be performing at Helsinki Street Festival! Georges Agbazahou, Camilla Heidenberg, Faride Lala, Jeanette Heidenberg ja Sara Estlander will be playing music, singing, dancing and organizing workshops as World Music System. And Leea Pienimäki-Amoussou, Victor Amoussou and Anu Nirkko will be participating in graffiti contest!

Victor Amoussou and Leea Pienimäki-Amoussou will also be opening their new exhibition at Rööperin taidesalonki on Tuesday 5th June from 5 pm to 7 pm. The exhibition will be open until 1st of July and it’s called SILTA / BRIDGE / PASSERELLE IV: Hwénouho (Auringon puhe / The Talk of the Sun / La parole du soleil) . Welcome!

Afrikka vierailee taas Helsingissä / Africa visits Helsinki again

Afrikka-aiheinen Ars11 päättyi eilen, mutta helsinkiläiset saavat joulukuuksi peräti kaksi uutta Afrikkaa sivuavaa tai käsittelevää näyttelyä.

3. joulukuuta Villa Karon kevään 2011 stipendiaatti Antti Seppänen avaa Beninissä ja lähimaissa kuvaamaansa video- ja valokuvamateriaalia esittävän näyttelyn galleria Volgassa. Unien portit -nimeä kantava näyttely pujahtaa taiteilijan omiin uniin:

”Joku voisi väittää että kuvat olisi voinut lavastaa ja kuvata missä hyvänsä. Kuitenkaan kokemusta joka nämä näyt synnytti, ei olisi voinut lavastaa. Ehkä minun ei Afrikassa tarvinnut nähdä unia öisin, aika hereillä oli liian vahvaa. Mutta olinko sittenkään Afrikassa? En ole ihan varma. Nämä kuvat ovat portteja uniini. Ota avain ja astu sisään, ole hyvä.” – Antti Seppänen

Viettely - Seduction by Antti Seppänen.

2. joulukuuta avautuu Amos Andersonin taidemuseossa Mami Wata ja jumalan puupalikat -niminen näyttely. Se on kahden Villa Karon ystäville tutun keräilijän vuosien työn tulos. Juha Vakkuri ja Matti-Juhani Karila ovat tahoillaan keränneet mittavan kokoelman afrikkalaista taidetta monilla matkoillaan ympäri mannerta. Näistä esineistä koostuvan näyttelyn on koostanut kuraattori Tintti Timonen.

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This week is a real treat for friends of  West African art and culture living near Helsinki as two different exhibitions will be opening.

Villa Karo’s last spring’s scholarship holder, filmmaker Antti Seppänen will have an exhibition in Galleria Volga focusing on video footage and photographs depicting his dreamful experiences in West Africa.

In Amos Anderson museum will take place an exhibition presenting the works of two African art gatherers well known by friends of Villa Karo: Juha Vakkuri and Matti-Juhani Karila. Along with curator Tintti Timonen the two gentlemen are putting on display their favourite pieces, sacred and profane, collected from numerous travels in Africa.

Antti Seppänen : “Unien Portit” / “The Gates of Dreams”
3rd-23rd December
Galleria Volga
Museokatu 34
00100 Helsinki

Karila&Vakkuri: “Mami Wata ja jumalan puupalikat”
2nd December – 30th January
Amos Andersonin taidemuseo
Yrjönkatu 27
Helsinki 00100

Look at me! The enchantment of photographs

Text by Matti-Juhani Karila (translated and abbreviated by Anna Ovaska)

I am not a photographer, but I’ve gotten hooked on the mysterious enchantment of photos – on this “one-hundredth part of a second which makes a blink of an eye eternal”, as American poet Hart Grane described the essence of photography in 1923.

I can’t imagine that any of you who read this article would travel to Africa without a camera, not even painters whose predecessors in the 19th century were worried that photography would someday perhaps displace the images made by hand. Digital cameras have destroyed some of the charm of photographs, but much of it is still left. Something of its innermost, original essence is alive today, and this is what I have tried to capture in the three exhibitions I have curated in Villa Karo, Grand-Popo between 2007 and 2011.

Whatever the limitations (through amateurism) or pretensions (through artistry) of an individual photographer, a photograph – any photograph – seems to have a more innocent, and therefore more accurate, relation to visible reality than do other mimetic objects. (Susan Sontag 1977, 3.)

One can of course aggravate and say that photos are not true. Negatives have been manipulated since photography was born. As early as in 1855 a German photographer shocked the audience in the World’s Fair held in Paris by showing two versions of one single photo: the original and the revised. He had developed a technique to modify negatives – to modify the truth. And as Susan Sontag has written: “News about the camera’s ability to lie made portraits even more popular. People wanted to get ideal pictures of themselves: photos of them at their best.

The thought of a three-part series of exhibitions in Grand Popo was born in 2007 when I built together with Stefan Bremer an exhibition called “Les témoignages du passé – Evidence from the Past”. I had collected about hundred enlarged postal cards from the colonial Africa. Pictures were taken by white colonists and their theme was “African people”. They show how nothing can replace the power of photographs as interpreters of the past (even if they are manipulated and modified) – maybe only objects in museums and their stories can bear the same value. I had collected the images from my own collections and from other collectors’ collections, from the archives of Finnish Missionary Society and from the huge Unesco archives. “Les témoignages” covered a period of time from the end of 19th century to the middle of 20th century.

It is nostalgic time right now, and photographs actively promote nostalgia. Photography is an elegiac art, a twilight art. — Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.” (Susan Sontag 1977, 11.)

Camera can also be used to emphasize the reality. A photograph is indisputable evidence that something has happened. Photographs can distort reality, but they also show that something, something that resembles the picture, has once existed.

After the independency of African countries, a lot of know-how brought by the white people disappeared as the former colonizers withdrew themselves back to Europe. But some things remained. The idea of making photographs stayed and African photo studios were created. From these treasures I collected the other exhibition to Grand-Popo in 2009. I don’t know any of the people in these studio photos, but I sense the importance of those moments which “make one-hundredth of a second eternal”. People rarely smile in these portraits, they are dressed up, they look directly to camera. The photos in the series cover time from mid of 20th century to the end of the millennium; portraits of African families taken by Africans.

Those ghostly traces, photographs, supply the token presence of the dispersed relatives. A family’s photograph album is generally about the extended family – and, often, is all that remains of it. (Susan Sontag 1977, 6.)

Antti Seppänen 2011 "Il était une fois en Afrique"

Regarde-moi! – Look at me!” is a logical continuation to these two earlier exhibitions. I have asked fourteen Finnish photographers to collect series from the photos they have taken in West-Africa in the first decade of the millennium. The working titles of these series anticipate an interesting ensemble: “Market days”, “Coups d’oeil”, “Street style”, “Friends”, “The Day of the School Uniform”, “They are”…

Photographers Stefan Bremer, Kari Hakli, Tuula Heinilä, Tapio Heikkilä, Sade Kahra, Jari Kivelä, Tuija Kuusela, Anu Nirkko, Lauri Nykopp, Joona Pettersson, Laura Pörsti, Cecilia Rosenlew, Antti Seppänen and Adolfo Vera have promised to participate in the exhibition. The exhibition will be opened in the mid-October 2011 and it will last until February 2012.

It would not be wrong to speak of people having a compulsion to photograph: to turn experience itself into a way of seeing. Ultimately, having an experience becomes identical with taking a photograph of it, and participation in a public event comes more and more to be equivalent to looking at it in photographed form. That most logical of nineteenth-century aesthetes, Mallarmé, said that everything in the world exists in order to end in a book. Today everything exists to end in a photograph. (Susan Sontag 1977, 18–19.)

Matti-Juhani Karila

Excerpts from Susan Sontag’s collection of essays On Photography (1977)

World Music System at Feeniks club

Next Thursday (October 6th) is a great occasion for lovers of really good music around Helsinki. Camilla Heidenberg (FINLAND, former scholarhip holder of Villa Karo) and Georges Abgazahou (BENIN) are giving a concert at Feeniks club.
As the artists put it, prepare yourself “for a soulful mixture of afro, pop, jazz and classical music with piano, vocals, djembe, percussion”.

The group has been performing all over Finland and in France this past summer. As George’s stay in Europe is, for now, coming to it’s end in a few weeks, this will be one the last possibilities to hear their music live in Finland this year. Don’t miss it!

World Music System at

Musiikkitalon klubi, Mannerheimintie 13A

Tursday 6th October at 10pm.


Between a dream and reality, there seems to be a distance that is never measured but the most important thing is that the dream comes true whatever the distance. Villa Karo dreamt some years ago of having on stage a famous gospel artist. His name Djidjoho Hounkponou. A maraton of negotiation that took weeks finally proved futile with a signature of the renown gospel artist on a two page contract that was signed on the 9th of August 2011. . .

3rd September, preparations were set to receive the artist on stage at 9pm. As early as around 19 hours people from all nook and corners of Grand-Popo, Adjaha, Hillakondji and Comé took to the only unique paved street of Grand-Popo’s keskusta and trooped towards Villa Karo, just to witness their favourite program of Premier Samedi du mois; MONTHLY CONCERT.

Publicities from two local radios and posters intrigued all gospel lovers. Youth, elders and especially children trailed behind their parents to be part of the monthly event, “sans blague”. One could hardly move two steps on the parking lot full of mopeds without trying to avoid body collision with the incoming audience. Djidjoho Hounkponou alias Jonny Sourou is one of the greatest gospel artist in Benin today. Talented from his infancy he got lot of inspiration from music like Afro-beat and Djoudjou from Nigeria, M’bala from Senegal and Laroumba from the Congos.

Jonny Sourou

Pushed by his determination to succeed, he continued struggling despite hard times, he left the storm behind him and imposed his music to the gospel world. At present he is rated second in the Benin musical circus. 9 pm on the dot, Jonny Sourou was welcomed on stage by two lovely and elegantly dressed ladies, Sylvie and Georgette who presented in English, French and Mina for the benefit of all.
Temptation to dance, constantly run through my nerves but I tried to quench my desire with some quick steps at the background responding to the rhythm. Audience without hesitation danced their hearts out with unlimited joy. Villa Karo’s trainee Emilia also cracked, went wild with joy, responded to the invitation of the artist on stage. I hardly recognised my colleague in such a joyous mood.

Soaked from head to toe with popular gospel tunes, the great audience, one of the biggest of all times periodically exploded with great joy, since everything that commences has an end, so was the concert. We parted home fully satisfied.
Concert was great, Audience was great!! everything was great. Chaoo Chaoo till next time.


Jonny and Emilia