“Everyone loves their country, let’s be honest. You leave your country only if you have no other choice”, says Zaher from Afghanistan with a cool casual voice. In Konnunsuo detaining center Loufi waiting to be deported back to Algeria talks about missing his daughter. Nima from Iran describes frustration over lack of work in a refugee center. Mobilediaspora, joint artwork by three accomplished Finnish artists gives voice and space to asylum seekers in Finland.
Artists Amir Jan, Anna Knappe and Pekka Niskanen have created an installation consisting of 10 media-artworks, currently on display at Helsinki city art museum. The installation gives voice to the group of asylum seekers that have in public received most backlash, young asylum seeker men. The decision is made deliberately to shake presumptions general public might have. The videos convey an atmosphere of limbo, waiting, fear. Men describe their thoughts, story and journey, but don’t yet dare to dream about the future.
Artwork is based on the long term consistent work done by Amir Jan and Anna Knappe in reception centers in Finland. They have been visiting for years, getting to know especially Afghan refugees, had discussions, drank tea together.
Also Pekka Niskanen has addressed the issue in his former work, in his PhD thesis and a movie on Chechenia. Personally biggest influence was however experiencing the terror attack in Paris. The attack at Bataclan- concert hall, which claimed 90 lives took place on Niskanen’s home street and filled familiar surroundings with bullet holes and blood.
”In Paris I personally saw what Isis is, and it has nothing to do with Islam”, Niskanen emphasizes.
Doing a piece of art with traumatized, vulnerable people requires especial sensibility and responsibility from the artist, says artist Anna Knappe.
”Basis of all trust is mutual respect”, Knappe says. Third member of the team Amir Jan has been able to speak to the interviewees in their own language, which has been helpful in getting their story right.
Asylum policy is in Finland widely discussed, but in art the matter has not been addressed much.
“I don’t consider the art work particularly brave”, Pekka Niskanen says. “I am not all too happy about how the art institutions face this issue that is fundamentally changing our society. The museums have been very quiet and shy away from political content.”
Also Anna Knappe welcomes more work by Finnish artists, where the asylum seekers themselves take part in the creative process.
“It would be wonderful to see artists taking on long term projects, together with the people they want their work to comment. All too often artists in their work project their personal feelings in the so called migrant crises. I hope to see more work with people personally affected.”
Mobilediaspora is constantly changing form. New videos are being added and stories change. In Helsinki, Mobilediaspora is open until 11th June. From Helsinki, the work is moving to Turku.
Editor: Anna Gustafsson
Photos: Anna Knappe
Tennispalatsi, Eteläinen Rautatiekatu 8, 00100 Helsinki.
More about the work (in Finnish): https://mobiilidiaspora.wordpress.com/