Yes, Waaw*. In other words: Waaw Centre for Art and Design, the Artists’ Residence located in Saint-Louis, Senegal. This is a very short post to share with you a recentvideothat will briefly present what Waaw does. If you are more of a reader, you can also log on to Waaw’s homepage. Enjoy!
During the month of June four artists Hattori Eiko, Louisa Gifford, Martina Kändler and Chris Sperandio spent their time in the AiR program discovering the white nights of the summer in Kristinestad on the West coast of Finland. Kristinestad is a charming small town with colorful and old wooden housing and narrow streets. It has a maritime past and is a member of the Città Slow network and as such makes a fantastic setting for artists to dwell in and to dwell on.
This summer Finland has had a record dry and hot weather and we were lucky to start early in June before the heat wave attacked this corner of Europe. We were all rather busy either in town or out in the woods most of the month. On top of that on the menu there were exhibitions, the annual Open Gates and Gardens event that attracts thousands of people from the region, workshops for natural dyes or how to make comics, encounters with people curious about art, amazing collaborations with local cultural actors and associations.. you name it!
Martina kept herself busy also during nights as her project had a focus on the color of the sky. What better way to study the white nights! Her other project took her to visit numerous summer houses and their interiors and this project might bring her back to Kristinestad again in 2019. Fingers crossed! To an average Finn a summer house is something rather ordinary that has a lot of rituals to go by – everyone has memories of summer houses and it was usually a sign of growing up when all of a sudden you no longer wanted to spend your summer in the bush with your parents, no matter how picturesque the place! Louisa spent a lot of her time in the print workshop. Eiko, who works with fibers and geometrical shapes and patterns, experimented with natural dyes from nettles, flowers, bark, lichen and what not. My ambitious plan was to experiment with her on local plants for anthotype photography but circumstances were a little against me and I have to postpone these experiments until later. I even had spotted some delicious poppies in one garden.. next year then!
What’s the story with the piano? If you ever wondered how to get your head around the narrative when creating graphic novels, Chris had some very interesting tools to help you with. He taught a two-day workshop for anyone interested in how to make comics – according to him anybody can do it and he should know as his experience in teaching comics extends to decades. So, why is that piano on a desert island? Start your story with such an image and work your way backwards to the every beginning – it makes sense!
Chris Sperandio workshop
Chris Sperandio workshop
Looking back at Kristinestad I am just impressed by the welcoming attitude of the locals and how they helped each and every artist in their projects… to the point where we all were at times so busy that one month was barely enough to finish what we started. We also owe a very humble thank you to the local cultural secretary for making our program so easy to run, together with the local artists association Spectra. Based on such a positive experience we may want to run a new programme on both ends of the short Finnish summer in 2019 in June and in August.
At the time of writing this my batteries are again charged to the full and I am back in hot and humid Saint-Louis. It is now time to roll up my sleeves and get busy with some of my own projects before hosting new artists. On top of my photography and writing projects I will try to be a real blogger for once in the coming two or three months and come back with more frequent updates – no promises but I’ll do my best!
This summer I have traveled more than usual, the usual being a summery visit once a year to Europe. More than usual also in the sense that whenever I was able to go to Finland, I would stay in my birth town Turku, but this time I spend an entire month in Kristiinankaupunki where we run an AiR programme every summer. This picturesque town is a member of the international Città Slow network, and rightly so: the town has a lovely somnolent atmosphere with old wooden housing, long narrow streets and neat gardens. Yet it is a functional place with a couple of restaurants, a library, a cinema, and it’s by the sea which to me is a huge plus.
I actively slowed down while in Kristiinankaupunki and took part in this Città Slow pace by spending my days sitting on the steps of an old customs house built in 1680. We had an exhibition of Ethiopian church paintings and my photographs in this house as part of the International Art Week and the annual Open Gates event that attracts hundreds and hundreds of visitors into town for a weekend. We had advertised the event in the local media and as a result there were visitors also from far away neighboring towns and there were guests from even as far as Australia! As this town used to build large ships and had a lot of sailors and fishermen, many also left and never came back. Now their grandchildren or grand grand grand children would come to spend a holiday in town and walk in the footsteps of their family members.
The customs house is such a magnificent setting to show art work and as it had been closed for years and years, the locals were now very curious to have a look inside. Some of them would tell stories about who had lived in the house after its original purpose, or argue whether anybody had ever lived there in the first place. Based on these stories I gather that at least in the seventies the house would have been used by three families, and there was also a time when a friendly Roma man called “Black Jack” lived there. “Jack” was “a heavy drinker and always wore black clothes,” customary to the Finnish Roma people.
I mentioned the library.. it deserves a separate thought here. If there is one thing missing in Saint-Louis, it’s the library. Libraries in Finland are notorious for creating public spaces in which you enter and you no longer want to leave! Moreover, if there is a copy of a book in any library in Finland and you would like to borrow just that book, they will order it for you and text you once it has arrived. So I was able to get hold of Arundhati Roy’s most recent novel The Ministry of Utmost Happiness that I could dive into with all that craziness of Old Delhi and Kashmir under Roy’s pen. My reading during those quiet hours, sitting on the steps of the old customs house, was only interrupted once in a while by swallows that had ended up trapped in the attic of the customs house. I would wait until they were a little tired first, then climb up those narrow stairs and catch them and take them out.