Twenty-four-year-old Wisam Elfadl is a young Finnish-Sudanese woman living in Helsinki who loves all kinds of honeys. She is also studying to be a cultural producer, and works in Kiasma as a cultural interpreter
In the autumn, Wisam will host a talk show at ARS 11 with guests of African descent, and will also challenge museum visitors to participate in the discussion.
“I want to have a discussion with my guests about things that are lacking in Finland, and also to give voice to people who are not usually heard. The discussions can be critical and break stereotypes.”
The discussions will be held in the galleries among the artworks. There will be room for a lot of people, and the discussions can be heard from a distance. “I wanted to invite the guests to the museum space, because it’s a place where people don’t usually talk. It’s very African, that there’s no place where people don’t talk.”
All the guests are living in Finland, but have their roots in Africa – just like Wisam – friends and family in both countries. “I was born in Sudan, and moved to Finland when I was five. I live in Finland, but I spend all my summers and Christmas holidays in Sudan. I have two homelands, one in which I live and the other where I spend my holidays. I have a Finnish husband, and the wedding too was held in both countries.”
People often think that Kiasma is difficult to approach, and that the art there is inaccessible. Wisam refutes the idea. The reason for the high threshold is that the building itself is unattractive. “The doors are so deep-set in the dark that you can’t see them. When you look at the building from Mannerheimintie, the first thing you see is a wall. If I could alter the building, I would open it up towards Mannerheimintie and add lots of light to the entrance. People are drawn by sound and by aesthetic beauty.”
Wisam discovered Kiasma when she was doing project work with Umayya Abu-Hanna. Then she discovered cultural interpreting. Kiasma’s cultural interpreters, aka Kultus, are a group of 18- to 24-year-olds interested in art and culture. They have had several projects in Kiasma, organising an exhibition, producing an artist documentary, designing and running workshops. They also maintain an ARS 11 blog at the lily.fi website.
“I have made new friends in Kiasma, and hear about Kiasma projects in advance. Besides, being part of Kiasma’s inner circle of makes me interesting to other people.”
ARS 11 CHANGES IDEAS ABOUT NORMS
“We should get Africans living in Finland to come to Kiasma, not as a group, but as ordinary visitors. They are not a homogeneous group, there are people who were born here, and there are those who moved to Finland when they were young, as well as young students and working people. Extroverted people, if you know how to approach them. There are a lot of stories behind every one of them. You will miss half of Finland if you don’t know this side of Finnishness.”
Wisam is convinced that ARS 11 will change normative ideas about Africa. It might also change ideas about African identity. In her show, Wisam will be talking with guests about such things as identity: what things in the guests are African, what are Finnish. What are the future prospects of a Finnish-African woman, what it is like to be an entrepreneur in Finland, or what they think about the family and community. Issues that touch us all.
WISAM IN 2021
Asked about where she sees herself in ten years’ time, Wisam stops to consider. “The role of the cultural producer is expanding all the time, and I have many leads I can follow. I also know how to say ‘no’, and I will not take on a job I don’t like.”
Nor does she want to become classified solely as someone working with immigrants, that is too inflexible. “Immigrants are today a distinct group in cultural production, but hopefully in ten years’ time the situation will be different.”
“I hope that ten years from now I will be doing something that can benefit Finland in 20 years’ time”, Wisam says.