My baby steps in the wonderful world of DNA

Bat spotting again… this particular individual is my Christmas greeting to family and friends. A Very Merry Christmas to you too! 

I took a Y-DNA test and found out about my ancestry. My haplogroup is represented in Western Siberia and Finland but I was surprised to see red dots also in Turkey and in the Caucasus. The dots on the map represent the earliest known forefathers of other people who took the test and with whom I share snippets of DNA. Perhaps it’s time to plan a haplo tour to Kazan? Or follow a trail down to the Black Sea and to the medieval slave markets of Feodosia? In those days it was common to snatch people and either bargain for their release or sell them as slaves. That happened also on the shores of the Baltic.

I researched my grandmother’s lineage and was able to connect with the Geni family tree. Her side of the family stayed in the same region in Ostrobothnia for several centuries and their family names were tied to farms and places. With Geni, suddenly I have over one thousand ancestors all the way back to my 16th great grandfathers, who were born around 1450.

I remember my great grandmother very well. At the time she was already very old and would just sit quietly and wrap herself in that secret historicity of hers. Her grandfather had been a sniper who died in mysterious circumstances in St. Petersburg after 1889. Who was he? Why was he there? I am now very keen on finding out more about single stories among those one thousand relatives.

In the coming year, be prepared, my dear reader, to more stories about my ancestry and about writing in general, as I am in the middle of writing a novel. I might also babble something about fictional autobiography, the genre that intrigued me already in the 90’s when I was working on my master’s degree in Marseille. Now it’s timely again, with all the potential of my going back in time and finding myself in the footsteps of my unknown father and his forefathers somewhere in the Crimea or Siberia. Add to that some of the more usual glimpses of my life between the Senegal river and the Atlantic Ocean and voilà: welcome a brand-new year 2022. 

The Freedom Artist

To those of you who read books: here’s another recommendation of a compelling examination of how freedom is threatened in a post-truth society. Ben Okri says that he had wanted to write this book “for a long time, maybe all [his] life.” Reading it now in these crazy times is bound to put an even heavier weigh on your chest.

New tales were encouraged. New myths were created by the most highly decorated artists of the land. To be like everyone else was the highest distinction a citizen could hope for. All the new myths promoted this ideal. Uniqueness, individuality, curiosity, became invidious qualities. They made enemies of the state. Anyone who stood out in some way was suspect. To be different was to condemn your fellow citizens. Those who were tall learnt to walk with a stoop. The intelligent learnt to be foolish.

I started this book in an aircraft full of passengers from Freetown. Half of them had full body protective suits, gloves and plastic hoods on throughout the flight. At times, when I had a break from reading and looked around me, I felt I was still in the story! It was one of those powerful moments when you think you escape this world into a book, into that famously mythical world by Okri, and yet everything that is happening around you looks even more fictive and absurd.

Ben Okri: The Freedom Artist (Head of Zeus, 2019)

Crossing borders

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A shop in the oasis village of Varess.

There is only so much in a small Mauritanian boutique. Looks like a very healthy way of creating order in life with just a few cardboard boxes.

This is a short travelogue to begin this brand new year. I just took a Trarza minibus from Nouakchott to Saint-Louis and spent those three hours listening to old women babble in Hassanya and at times in a very animated accent in Wolof. They all laughed a lot and their tiny mobile phones kept ringing and since the mobile coverage was bad, they shouted into their phones and the calls would just drop and after each call there was this sudden silence for about thirty seconds. And it all started again. Half way on our route we had a stop for breakfast with a rather predictable menu: grilled meat, baguette and mint tea. No coffee in sight.

I had a small artist’s crisis lately with a thorough feeling that nobody is interested in what I do, at least not in this town anyway. Everybody seems to be more interested in just telling what they do.

When you cross borders here between countries, you are asked about your profession and I would answer: “artist,” or “artist photographer.” The border control then checks what they can find in their system based on what you had told them previously, or they write it up for future record. I always feel like I have committed a small crime having changed my profession from “commerçant” – that’s what stands on my residence card –  to “artist.” Now, crossing the border I again found this question a little intimidating and while the officer scrutinized my data with a very confused look on his face I thought it would have been so much easier to say “fisherman” or “pirogue owner.” Although I probably don’t look like neither. What if I said that I’m an “art residency coordinator?” They would probably choke in their mint tea, or just kick me out.

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Crossing the Senegal river from Rosso-Senegal to Rosso-Mauritania.

Back in Saint-Louis, after the usual hundred or so handshakes, the desert still lingers in my mind and I predict that this year I will go quieter about my art practice and will concentrate more on the actual work. Perhaps I will show some of that work in the summer, somewhere.

Go small!

In the middle of this spring’s artists’ residency season the house is full of positive work flow and laughter and discussions about life in general, and about being an artist and looking for opportunities to show your work in particular.

Since long time now I preferred very slow processes just because, and I keep reminding myself that it is all about the process. It’s not about sharing my work to the entire world on the social media, because that process easily takes over and interferes with my creative pulses and subconsciously affects my work while it should just be about my love of making things. I had these thoughts just the other day while I was stitching some fabric for a tie dye workshop. I was amused when I realized how little it actually is that you know about what you will be doing at some later stage in your life… who would have thought that I would prefer to sit quietly in the house, listen to my favorite radio station Radio Wassoulou Internationale, and  stitch fabric! It was very relaxing and meditative and while I was at it, I thought I could do this much, much more often and make some surprising patterns and dye these fabrics in various shades of indigo. I was also thinking of Aboubacar Fofana and his impressive textile designs. How often do you seriously stop to think whether you should set sail to a completely new direction in your life?

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© Jarmo Pikkujämsä

Maybe it’s because my recent walking trip in the Mauritanian desert that I seem to have the urge to go smaller and keep it “simple”? I’m thinking of small spaces and work that would fit in them. It’s a good time to keep listening to Radio Wassoulou and be playful with tie dyes, photography and writing, and go smaller for a change.

Tarinoita Senegaljoesta

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Pohjois-Senegalin Saint-Louis’n saarella huijaripapit, aaveet, siirtomaaherrat ja ruumiita joesta sukeltava Seydou tutustuttavat lukijansa kaupungin värikkääseen arkeen ja valaisevat tarinoillaan millaista on asua Senegal-joen varrella ja välillä joen uumenissakin. Kalastajistaan ja siirtomaa-ajan historiastaan tunnetun saaren suulliseen perinteeseen nojaavat tarinat päätyvät harvoin kirjoihin ja kansiin, puhumattakaan että niitä voisi lukea suomeksi. Nyt se on mahdollista!

Otteita kirjasta

Saaren eteläisissä kortteleissa Ameth Fall-koulun vieressä asui nainen nimeltä Djemb Samb. Kerran, kun hän oli vielä pieni tyttö, hänen äitinsä lähetti hänet heittämään roskia jokeen. Kun Djemb Samb saapui joen rantaan, hän näki siellä vanhan rouvan istumassa penkillä. Kun tyttö lähestyi vanhaa rouvaa, joen henki Mame Coumba Bang tiesi tytön läsnäolon vaikka katsoi ihan muualle. Hän käänsi katseensa Djemb Sambin suuntaan ja päästi suupielestään ciipatuu-maiskahduksen tyttöä kohti. Kohta tämän jälkeen joen henki sukelsi penkkeineen jokeen ja katosi veden syvyyksiin. Tästä päivästä alkaen Djemb Sambin suu vääntyi vinoon asentoon, eikä hän koskaan onnistunut saamaan lapsia.

Kun joen henki teki Djemb Sambille ciipatuun, tytön olisi pitänyt päästää ciipatuu suustaan saman tien takaisin joen hengen suuntaan. Jos hän olisi tehnyt niin, hänelle ei olisi käynyt kuinkaan.

Nasille ei käynyt näin köpelösti. Siihen aikaan, kun joen vesi oli makeaa, Nasi pesi pyykkiä joen rannassa vanhan höyrynosturin vieressä. Pyykätessä hän huomasi joen hengen Mame Coumba Bangin tulevan häntä kohti ja tuijottavan häntä tiukasti. Kun Mame Coumba Bang oli tullut Nasin luokse, hän teki Nasille ciipatuun, ja Nasi vastasi takaisin päästämällä suupielestään mehevän ja vielä äänekkäämmän ciipatuun joen hengelle Mame Coumba Bangille sillä seurauksella, että tämä kääntyi kannoillaan ja katosi jokeen.


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Eräänä iltana nuori mies oli joen rannassa höyrynosturin takana. Hän oli siellä tarpeillaan ja oli asettunut kyykkyyn niin, että takapuoli osoitti joelle päin. Kun hän oli hoitanut asiansa ja oli pesemässä takamustaan, hän tunsi kuinka joesta ilmestyi käsi, joka auttoi häntä kyseisessä toimenpiteessä.

Nuorimies oli seota siihen paikkaan!

Tästä päivästä lähtien aina kun mies muisteli tapahtunutta, hän sai hulluuskohtauksen.



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Teos (114 s.) sisältää noin 50 valokuvaa Saint-Louis’n kaupunkimiljööstä ja tarinoissa esiintyvistä yksityiskohdista.

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Tarinat: Idrissa Diallo.

Suomennos, ulkoasu ja valokuvat: Jarmo Pikkujämsä.

Ilmestymisajankohta: maaliskuu 2019.

ISBN: 978-952-69023-0-2

Jälleenmyyntihinta: € 20,00

Late Afternoon Publishing kustantaa valokuvakuvateoksia, graafisia novelleja ja fiktiota Afrikasta ja Afrikan diasporasta. Senegal-sarjan seuraava osa on tämän teoksen wolofinkielinen versio Ci Biir Dexu Senegal.

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