Monday, 16 April 2012

My blog has moved/Blogini on muuttanut

Due to technical reasons (I find this template outdated and difficult to manage graphically), my blog has moved to WordPress/Teknisistä syistä (tämä alusta on minusta vanhanaikainen ja vaikea päivittää graafisesti tyydyttävään muotoon) blogini on muuttanut WordPressiin:

This blog will be written in Finnish but I am likely to start a sister site in English soon/Pidän tätä blogia ainoastaaan suomeksi, mutta todennäköisesti aloitan sisarussivuston englanniksi pian.

Thanks to all readers,  hope to see you on the new site soon!/Kiitos kaikille lukijoille, nähdään uudella sivustolla pian!

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Vanity tables and hand cream appliance

I too among millions of females (and males) around the globe have been struck by the verbosity and elegance of the BBC TV series Downton Abbey. The addiction is more severe than the one I had in my childhood for Brideshead Revisited - after all my child got named by the queer heir who was clutching on to his teddy bear!

This time Lizz Winstrell the Guardian gets it all right in her column in the Guardian - one can measure the pace of the episode counting how many times the ladies apply hand cream in one evening. But the series has even got my passive offspring addicted - this means there's something very special going on in the dramatization.

My favourite character is Daisy the kitchen maid with the ears.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Agostinho under the tree

The struggles of Lusophone Africa have inspired me for a long time - don't ask me why, as I don't really speak Portuguese and have very limited contact to that part of the world. My favourite freedom fighter of all times has been Amilcar Cabral of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde - the lucidity of his writing is amazing and many of the issues he raises are all but solved yet. A lot of his work has been translated into English, and my favourite text is an essay called "The Weapon of Theory". If one ever doubts the benefits of whatever third-rate university education one may have gathered, one should return to that text and feel ashamed.
Amilcar Cabral is more or less my imaginary friend. On my last holidays to Cape Verde, I was ecstatic to land at his airport and take pictures of his statue, in Espargos on the island of Sal. The airport art was magnificently communist: it portrayed the daily struggles of fishermen and their wives, and the encounters with sons and daughters returning from abroad. This must be the common Cape Verdean reality: happiness comes from abroad, through e-mails, Skype calls and Western Union sendings. The airport's contrast with the sterile all-inclusive hotel was too vast to give words to. In between, we mainly met streetwise businessmen from the mainland of Senegal and Gambia, who were much better trained in wooing the tourists than the locals. But even in the bastion of affluence, the Cape Verdian staff showed their souls: we never experienced servitude, the people were proud of their work, and didn't succumb to any bullshit.  
But now for the purposes of fiction, I have been reading the life story of another comrade, Augustiñho Neto (1922-1979), who was the first president of Angola (1974-1979) and admittedly the country's biggest national hero. He was also a poet, whose work was never published in fascist Portugal, but in
Italy and Soviet Union.
Neto spent much of the 50's and 60's in Portuguese prisons, in detention on remote colonial islands and in exile in different African countries, like Morocco and Congo. In the late 50's he was expelled to community service in the islands of Cape Verde - it was a prison without gates. He was ordered to practice his trade there for the benefit of the colonized. The records tell that he spent time on at least three islands: Sal, Boa Vista and Sao Vicence. He rode on a donkey from one village to another to see the patients.
Neto was married to a Portuguese woman, María Eugénia, who followed the husband with the small children to most destinations. His story is deeply entwined with the history of fascism - and his camaraderie with Portuguese communists was wide. Race was not the main issue in the common struggles - it looks like the Portuguese communist movement in the 50's and 60's was mature enough to overcome all racial boundaries.
Neto was a medical doctor, specialized in gynecology. Reading the biographies it seems that there were some months or years when he actually managed to practice his profession. Having a black doctor in Luanda in the 1950s was a novelty, but perhaps there were not enough black patients who trusted in Western medicine. The white Portuguese presence in Angola was huge before 1974, many profiting from cocoa, coffee and diamond trade. I do not know if the whites had the courage to consult a black communist doctor, but it looks like there are still remaining some white comrades in the country, who proudly remember his name. The number of Portuguese ex-colonists in the country is about 1 % of the population, and in addition, ca. 2% are mestizas.  
Angola is difficult to imagine, because the country has been isolated from the world because of brutal war for ca. 30 years. Illiteracy is still rampant, and people are managing their lives in the midst of landmines. The city of Luanda has become a metropol too expensive even for the European and American expatriates to live in. The music and art scene seems lively, the young people are finding their strength in fusion music like Kuduro (literally "hard ass"). I cannot imagine Angola without traveling there, as the literature is very limited to an Anglocentric ignoramus.
I have walked in the blocks of Lisbon, where the African revolutionaries used to hang out, without knowing the importance of those streets and corners. Alameda was the centre of "ultramarine" communist activities, they used to gather in the Tia Andreza's literary salon on 37, Rua Actor Valet. Nowadays the quarters are comfortable, quiet, polished, but still down-key. The resistance still prevails, one can feel it. Every street in Lisbon tells a story of furious political struggle.
There were also black women involved - although a minority, they were around and vocal. One should look into the biography of the poet and minister of culture of the islands of Sao Tome and Principe, Alda Espirito Santo, who was comrade to all the key guys. Alda is worshipped on those islands as the mother of the nation. Indeed, in Lisbon, freedom struggles were dominantly fought by people from small places. The Atlantic islands, Goa, Macao, East Timor...
Most of Neto's writing are unaccessible to me because of the language barrier. He has published several collections of poetry, translated especially in Eastern European languages. His face shines in many stamps from all over the Eastern Bloc. His warmest relations were with Cuba, which perhaps finally resulted in the invitation of Cuban soldiers to kill themselves in the bloody civil war of the 80s and 90s.
The latest controversy around the guy long gone has to do with paternity. Augustinho Neto died of cancer surgery in 1979 in a hospital in Moscow, and from there another era of war and destruction started. In the 2000s a  woman called Mihaela Marinova came to look for her roots in Angola. She was abandoned by her mother as a new born in a children's home in Sofia, Bulgaria in 1974. After the collapse of Communism, the young woman moved to work in the hotel industry in London. Mihaela claims to be Neto's daughter, and all the coordinates of the parents' rendez-vous have been recorded. DNA tests proved positive results. Neto's family denies the charges.  
Many pictures have been taken of Agostinho sitting under Portuguese trees, African trees. It must have been postcolonial resistance to avoid chairs. I wonder what Neto is thinking of - plotting, scheming, sketching, gathering his people...the struggle will continue!

Monday, 20 February 2012

Kitschy history, Finnish style

Hard to believe that this is true, but it is - every political orientation has its own shop nowadays, and as I was browsing for some evidence on the 1930's
deportations of communists and social democrats
to the Russian border, I found a shop that sells
miniature MUILUTUS cars ("muilutus" means
forced transportation). The most famous MUILUTUS in Finnish history was the MUILUTUS
of ex-president Ståhlberg and his wife from Helsinki to Joensuu in October 1930 - a moderate Social Democrat politician with no close ties with the Soviet.

Now the descendants of Lapua Brownshirts can purchase these miniature cars for their kiddies, and the famous brown
shirt can also be ordered in ladyfit and baby size. Check:


Praise high capitalism, hallelujah!

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Antirasistista draamaa

YLE on viime aikoina yllättänyt positiivisesti. Viimeisen kahden viikon aikana on teeveestä tullut kaksi laadukasta minisarjaa, jotka kummatkin ajoittuvat 2. maailmansodan aikoihin.
BBC:n tuottama Sateenkaaren pää (Small Island) kertoo jamaikalaisista siirtolaisista, jotka seuraavat unelmiaan emomaan kehityksestä ja edistyksestä Lontooseen. Kirjailija Andrea Levy on voittanut Orange-ja Commonwealth-palkinnot tällä romaanillaan, ja sarja vaikuttaa yhtä tasokkaalta. Ihan harmittaa, että sarjassa on vain kaksi jaksoa, olisin mielelläni seurannut sarjaa koko kesän. Levyn tuotannosta innostuneena hankin myös hänen uusimman romaaninsa Long Song, joka kertoo orjakaupan loppuvuosista Jamaikalla. Kirja on niin liikuttava ja raa'an kaunis, ettei sitä raaski ahmia, vaan se pitää lukea hitaasti ajatuksella. Niin koukussa olen sarjaan ja Levyn sanalliseen arkkuun, että luultavasti tulee shoppailtua Amazonilta naisen koko tuotanto. Muutama vuosi sitten opetin afro-karibialaista kirjallisuutta. Jos saisin opettaa kurssin uudelleen, keskittyisin luultavasti kolmeen kirjailijaan: Andrea Levyyn, Jamaica Kincaidiin ja Chimamanda Ngozi Adichieen.
Toinen yllätys oli saksalainen minidraama Neekeri, neekeri, nokikolari. Katsoimme sitä yhdessä poikani kanssa, ja hän tapitti sarjaa silmät ymmyrkäisenä melkein uskaltamatta liikkua. Siinä seurattiin puoliksi liberialaisen pojan Hans-Jürgenin kohtaloa Hampurissa sodan eri vaiheissa. En voinut kuin todeta, että nyky-Suomessa eletään jokseenkin tätä samaa todellisuutta kuin 30-luvun Saksassa- "neekeriukoista" lausuntoja antavat Herra Hakkaraiset saavat porskuttaa parlamentissamme, ja naiiveina uskomme, että heidän pitäminen salongeissa lisää demokratiaa. Tuo sarja on pedagogisesti tosi onnistunut, ja haluaisin näyttää sitä isommillekin yleisöille kuin kotikatsomolle.   

Jaavalainen unelma

Näin unta jaavalaisista maskeista. Tiedän, että Jaava on Indonesian suurin saari. Tiedän, että indonesialaiset harrastavat varjonukketeatteria ja heillä on jännittäviä gongiorkestereita. Musiikkityylin nimi on gamelan. Sanasta ”Jaava” tulee ensimmäisenä mieleen kahvi ja toiseksi tietokoneohjelma.
Herään ja vietän hurmoksellisen aamun lukiessani ihmisten matkakuvauksia Jaavalta ja Balilta. Keitän itselleni jaavalaista mokkaa, vahvaa kahvia kaakaolla ja kanelilla maustetussa kermavaahdossa. Onneksi palan Jaavaa voi luoda itselleen melko halvalla sateisena sunnuntaiaamuna kylmässä Pohjolassa. Minulla on myös Tallinnasta ostettu intialainen maski, joka muistuttaa paljon balilaisten maskeja. Kuulemma tällaiset ”pelotusmaskit” laitetaan etuovelle karkottamaan demoneita. Omaan rappukäytävään en sentään uskalla tuota hurjimusta laittaa. Taloyhtiöltä saattaisi tulla nootti, jos niin tekisin.
Jaavalla nykykulttuuri on pääasiallisesti islamilaista, Balilla hindulaista. Hindulaiset vaikutteet ovat kuitenkin edelleen läsnä myös Jaavalla, ja vanhoja temppeleitä kunnioitetaan ja ylläpidetään osana maailmanperintöä.
Koko maailma halajaa Balin paratiisisaarelle, maailman aamuun. Halajan itsekin, mutta jos tuohon maailman kolkkaan joskus päädyn, aion käydä myös Jaavalla. Jaavalla pääkohteeni olisi Bandungin kaupunki, historiallisista syistä. Kolmas maailma yritti muodostaa oman blokkinsa Bandungissa vuonna 1955, se oli merkittävä askel globaalien etelä-etelä-suhteiden kehityksessä. Edelleen puhutaan ”Bandungin hengestä”.
Olisi niin coolia viettää pari viikkoa puuhun rakennetussa hotellihuoneessa ja hypätä aamuisin suoraan terassilta mereen. Bali tuntuu paikalta, jossa ei ole pakko suorittaa mitään kulttuurirasteja – kulttuuri on niin rikkaana kaikkialla, että pelkkä kadulla käveleminen riittäisi. Kaikkialla olisi lintuja, apinoita ja käärmeitä, lounasta syötäisiin käsin kansankuppiloissa joissa ei olisi kirjoitettua menuuta, vaan annokset tilattaisiin sormin osoittamalla.
Balilla ganjan myyjät muistavat Madventuresin hemmot, ja yrittävät kaupata suomalaisille ruohoa vetoamalla näihin kahteen sankariin.
Kai siellä on paljon muutakin kuin huumehöyryistä todellisuutta.
Itse matkaisin Balille piirtelemään kaikkea näkemääni ihmettä ja kummaa. Kulkisin luonnoskirja kädessä, tekisin ite-taidetta kaduilta löytämistäni sattumista.
Opettelisin sukeltamaan.  
Tutkisin ihmisten koteja, paikallista ekologista sisustusfilosofiaa. Opettelisin luopumaan turhasta.
Pari viikkoa puumajassa taatusti muuttaisi tapani nähdä maailmaa.
Lennot sinne näyttävät maksavan n. 1400 euroa per lärvä. Tietystikään en haluaisi sinne yksin, vaan koko perheen kanssa.  
Realistisesti tulen pääsemään sinne aikaisintaan eläkkeellä, mutta on hyvä pitää takataskussa kaunista ja kestävää unelmaa.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Feresi - an Iranian-Karelian piece of clothing

I stole this image from someone's blog in the US - she had collected old Finnish postcards from the 70s. I assume this is a folk band, and I should probably know who they are. I don't and the image makes me grin broadly. In my childhood, this kind of Karelia folklore was really popular.

The dress the three women are wearing is not an official folk dress, but a feresi - the everyday dress of Karelian women, worn in the kitchen and cowshed. Interesting about the dress is that it has travelled from Persia to Russia and landed in Karelia. Another, more festive variant of it is the sarafan. Different parts of Karelia had different feresi fashions - the one seen here is a North Karelian variant. The ones from the Russian side of the border seem more flashy and "Oriental". The common colours in feresis and sarafans seem to be red, blue, white and black. Usually they are worn with headgear that shows the woman's marital status. Unmarried ones wear ribbons, married ones a sorokka or säpsä.

Feresis were almost disappearing in Finland in the 20th century, until 1960s when two women active in the Orthodox church, Tellervo Riikonen and Irinja Nikkanen, decided to revive the tradition. Nowadays feresis seem to be in particular church fashion, but I am sure they are also worn in Orthodox families at different family gatherings.

I first saw a live feresi here in Tampere as I attended the Orthodox church coffee hour a couple of years ago. I must say I found them odd in the beginning, but now I am always looking forward to seeing the feresi ladies serving the coffee. It would be nice to own one, even if it was worn once in five years. As a piece of clothing, it seems to allow more movement than the actual Finnish folk dress, and it makes you look less matronly, as the dress is made of lighter fabric. Feresi specialists in Finland tell that everyone can make a feresi of their own style. It should consist of the dress, a white shirt and an apron,  but all the rest is up to you to improvise.

In the US there are lots of fashion websites dedicated to "modest clothing". Here in Finland I don't think women dress up in feresis to highlight their modesty, but rather to celebrate family history and "roots".

The most poetic part of feresis is the Russian "soul warmer" (dusegreja), a festive jacket worn on top of it at wintertime and as a bridal specialty in weddings. All women deserve their own soul warmers. This is a tradition that truly feeds the soul.