Julkistamistilaisuus pidetään Helsingissä PAND ry:n tiloissa osoitteessa 5. linja 2 E perjantaina 30.3. alkaen klo 18. Esiintymässä ja keskustelemassa ovat antologian toimittaja Rita Dahl, gambialaiskirjailija Seedy Bojang, Petteri Paksuniemi ja Helena Oikarinen-Jabai. Vaihtoehtoinen julkistamistilaisuus pidetään Tampereella Tulenkantajien kirjakaupassa osoitteessa Hämeenpuisto 25 lauantaina 31.3. alkaen iltakuudelta. Tilaisuudessa esiintyvät Dahlin ja Bojangin lisäksi ainakin Anu Hirsiaho.


Gambialaiskirjailija ja –toimittaja Seedy Bojang on parhaillaan Tanskan PENin ja maailmanlaajuisen ICORN-verkoston valitsema vieraskirjailija Frederiksbergissä. Hän on myös Melbournen PEN-keskuksen kunniajäsen. Frederiksbergissä Bojang on kirjoittanut Yhdysvalloissa julkaistun hyökkäyksiä sananvapautta, demokratiaa ja ihmisoikeuksia vastaan Afrikassa käsittelevän runokokoelman Tears and Sorrows ja häneltä ilmestyy pian novellikokoelma Unlocking Stories.


Bojang oli Independent-sanomalehden toimittaja ennen kuin hän siirtyi Daily Observerin oikolukijaksi. Independentin toimitukseen hyökättiin kaksi kertaa ja se suljettiin vuonna 2005; sieltä Bojang siirtyi Daily Observeriin. Hänellä oli ongelmia toimituksen kanssa, joka vaati häntä kirjoittamaan hallitusta tukevia juttuja.


Suomalaiset ja afrikkalaiset kirjailijat olivat kirjeenvaihdossa neljästä teemasta: lapsuudesta, mustasta ja valkoisesta pohjoisesta ja etelästä, minun Afrikastani, uskonnoista ja jumalista. Syntyi proosaa, runoa, faktan ja fiktion rajamailla liikkuvaa tekstiä ja antologia, jossa pohjoista ja etelää yhdistävät nautinnot ja pelot, ennakkoluulot ja stereotypiat sekä ihmisoikeuksien ja sananvapauden puuttuminen. Ainoastaan etelän köyhyys on erilaista, absoluuttista. Toisaalta etelässä rikkaus voi olla absoluuttista, koska se ei ole pelkästään materiaalista.


Kirjeenvaihto käytiin vuoden 2011 aikana ja sitä julkaistiin myös projektia varten perustetussa blogissa My Black and White Africa osoitteessa


Kokonaan kaksikielisen antologian (suomi ja englanti) toimitti kirjailija Rita Dahl, joka koordinoi projektin. Lola Rogers toimi kääntäjänä suomesta englantiin. Antologian kustantaja on Palladium-kirjat ja projektin suojelija oli taiteilijoiden rauhanyhdistys PAND. WSOY:n apuraha mahdollisti projektin toteutumisen.


Lisätietoa ICORN-verkostosta:


Yhteystiedot ja haastattelupyynnöt:


Antologian toimittaja

Rita Dahl

puh. 045-3104571




This anthology (edited by Rita Dahl) consists of correspondence between Finnish and African authors about four themes: Religion and God(s), Childhood, My Black and White South and North and My Africa. Finnish authors or researchers involved in were: Rita Dahl, Katariina Vuorinen, Janne Nummela, Ville-Juhani Sutinen, Anu Hirsiaho, Petteri Paksuniemi and Helena Oikarinen-Jabai. Africans were: Toyin Adewale Gabriel (Nigeria), Morgan Chipopu (Zambia), Stanley Gazemba (Kenya), Cornelius Gulere Wambi (Uganda), Kingwa A. Kamencu (Kenya), Elizabeth Pienaar (South Africa), Charles A. Matathia (Kenya).


Prose, poems and essays that blurred the lines between fiction and non-fiction were born, exploring themes that are common to both North and the South – pleasures and fears, prejudices and stereotypes, and the lack of human rights and freedom of speech. Only the poverty in The South is distinct, absolute. At the same time, richness in the South can also be absolute, because it does not depend only on material issues. The anthology was edited by author Rita Dahl, who also coordinated the project. Lola Rogers translated the Finnish texts into English.


This project is part of the activities of Finnish Peace NGO PAND, it is supported by Finnish publishing company WSOY and coordinated by Rita Dahl. The anthology was published by Palladium-kirjat. Lola Rogers translated from Finnish into English.


Launch events will be on 30th of March in Helsinki in the office of PAND in 5. linja 2 E starting from 6 PM and on 31st of March in the bookshop of Tulenkantajat inTampere, Hämeenpuisto 25, from6 PM onward.


Additional information:


Rita Dahl

tel. 045-3104571

Stanley Gazemba & Ville-Juhani Sutinen

Stanley Gazemba was born in 1974 in Vihiga, western Kenya. He lives with his family in Kangemi, Nairobi. Trained as a journalist at Kenya Polytechnic University College, he has written for Sunday Nation, The East African and Msanii Magazine. His fiction has appeared in The Literary Review (Fairleigh Dickinson University, 2009), Crossing Bordersonline magazine, ‘A’ is for Ancestors-a selection of stories from the Caine Prize (Jacana, 2004) and Man of the House and other new short stories from Kenya (CCC Press, UK 2011).

He has published one novel, The Stone Hills of Maragoli which won Jomo Kenyatta Prize, and seven childrens books: Poko at the KorasPoko and the JetShaka ZuluThe Herdsboy and the PrincessGrandmother’s Winning Smile, Tobi and the Street boy and Ant’s Clay castle.

In 2003 he attended the Caine Prize Writers’ workshop in Cape Town, South Africa.

Chinese Cuisine (continuation)

The long rays of the sun stretched across the street and touched the twisted mabati roofs of the shops across in a soft fiery hue that dulled the score of the dust and rust and made them look almost beautiful. The lights in the shops were coming on one after the other, and up the street the music from the pub had cranked up. Jomo had already set up his jiko although he hadn’t lit it yet. The street mongrels had gathered around the greasy spot where the jiko stood in anticipation of castoffs once the day’s business began. Jomo arranged the charcoal on the tray and stuffed used packets of milk in the chamber underneath. Then he stood watching the throngs of people streaming down the street coming back from work, a Rooster cigarette burning at the corner of his mouth, his eyes squinted thoughtfully.

He was hoping to do good business, given today was midmonth when the street people would have got their advance pay from the Asian factories and Wazungu homes where they worked. He knew the routine well. They would start at the smoky busaa shebeens further down the street. And then as the evening ripened they would stagger to the pub to round off the day with a beer and a dance with the cunning busaa women who would be hanging on their arms. As they filed by into the pub the glistening mutura and meat would be irresistible. Of course by then a five-shilling measure of the stuffed colon-sausage would be going for double. With such predictable patrons like these who needs a miserly job at a Mhindi’s factory? Living off the fat of the land… wasn’t that what the poet called it?

Blowing a long jet of smoke he cupped his hand over his mouth and shouted at a group of kids playing with a broken tricycle that had one hind wheel missing a little distance away. His son Gitau detached himself from the group and came running. Save for his size he was a spitting image of his father, bearing the same broad accountant’s forehead and shifty eyes; even the bow in his short soccer full-back’s legs was already showing at his age.

“I want to find this jiko lit,” said Jomo curtly, gathering his sack and setting off to get the meat.

Unlike Fanta, her aunt was a burly dark woman whose chubby face was ever breaking into a smile. It is the one reason she had worked for the white family who employed her in the wealthy suburb next to the slum as a househelp for all those years. She always made their guests feel at ease, her mere presence radiating warmth in the large airy house. But behind those shiny dark eyes was a sharp business mind that had enabled her to send her three children to good boarding schools upcountry and was planning to enroll Fanta for a hairdressing course partly from the profit she made running the grocery store. It was the reason she took stock at the store everyday first thing when she returned from work in the evenings.

And she wasn’t looking very pleased today. All the sodas were still in the refrigerator and the groceries had hardly sold. And yet it was mid-month, when the people who lived on the street would be replenishing their rice, sugar and beans reserves or buying a tub of Blue Band now that they had their advance pay.

“I daresay we had a bad day,” she said to Fanta, who was sweeping out the yard at the front of the shop. “We have hardly sold a packet of milk!” She turned on the light at the front of the shop, instantly drawing a swarm of mosquitoes and moths, which swirled round and round the glowing bulb. “Finish up the cleaning and come lend a hand,” she called to Fanta as the first of the evening customers started lining up at the counter, drawn by her familiar high-pitched voice- mostly neighbouring women coming for a bit of the day’s gossip before they purchased a matchbox or a measure of ghee.

Fanta gathered the trash into a dustpan and emptied it in the dustbin to one side of the yard. Seeing the bin was almost full she decided to go and empty it on the rubbish heap in the garden behind the store, which she usually lit once a week. The garden was weedy, the sticky blackjack pods leaning into the way attaching themselves to the hem of her dress as she passed along the narrow path that led to the garbage heap. The stalks of sukuma wiki were starting to wither, shoulder-high and stripped of all their leaves. Same to the tomato vines that sagged from their stakes like strips of thong, the few fruits still clinging to them warped. Soon as the rains came she would dig them all up in preparation for a new crop.

But it wasn’t really this that Fanta was thinking about as she wound her way through the weeds towards the garbage heap. It was the street mongrels. They had started barking again, and there was a strange note in the wailing bark that disturbed her. Even still they had retreated to a distance, some barking from yonder across the muddy river that snaked its way down the valley, separating the slum from the next. Fanta knew that sound. It was the sound the dogs usually made in the dead of night when they were terrified. She knew it well because she had always been a light sleeper.

It had grown fairly dark by then, and for a while Fanta felt a chill pass down her spine. The truth was that the prospect of dusk filled her with dread. It was an old fear that she had lived secretly with all her life. It was the fear of her graphic dreams, and the cold sweat that they left in their wake long after she had sprang awake and opened her eyes wide. And right now as she stood there in the middle of the darkening weedy garden with the faint light thrown by the naked security bulbs playing on the swaying treetops and the fireflies zapping about her, the forgotten garbage bin in her hands the cold finger of dread clawed suddenly at her guts. This was her one deep secret that she kept strictly to herself, not sure how everyone would react. What if they decided she was a queer… someone who saw dark things… would she ever retain a friend in her life?

And as she stood there with the cool of the evening chill stirring the fine hairs at the back of her neck, rocking slowly on her feet, her ears filled with the eerie wailing of the dogs that seemed to beckon to her she was convinced beyond doubt that the dreaded night visions were starting all over again. Yes, it was a precursor to what awaited her as she lay in her bed alone later in the dark that night.

And the dreams were getting scarier and scarier. In one of last night’s there was the fishmonger down the street. She was going about her business as usual, gutting and cleaning fish from her old reed basket. She washed the gutted fish in the bilge-coloured water in the rusty tin trough, her thick hands moving with the practiced deftness of an old machine. At arm’s reach smoke billowed from her wood-fire, the raging flames lapping around the deep soot-coloured pan in which the brown deep-frying oil that she had carried over from the business of the day before bubbled angrily. A swarm of huge blue flies hung around the slop bucket, barely scared away by the flywhisk the fishmonger waved occasionally. One of the furry creatures even homed in on her wide open dream eye and butted against the retina, buzzing angrily; but she did not blink.

The fishmonger, a chunky stout woman, made an effort to rise from the low kitchen stool to turn over the frying fish in the pan. Her faded checked apron hung low, the pocket sewn into the front bulging with change and her house-keys. It was when her stained fish-slice dipped into the frothy oil to turn the biggest of the three fish that the drama started. Instead of turning over so the upper end could fry the big fish rose upright suddenly, ballooning out as if inflated by an invisible suction pump. In the blink of an eye the huge fish stood upright in the pan of boiling oil, rising two times the size of the fishmonger. Its glistening body still bore the gashes left by the fishmonger’s knife as she had prepared her for salting. Nonetheless the glassy eyes that peered down from above its mocking curved mouth were very much alive. As the fishmonger watched aghast the huge fish flipped over and out of the pan and stood towering beside her.

“Ha! Surprised, aren’t we?” she said, leaning close to the dumbstruck woman.

One by one the other fish rose and ringed themselves around the dumbstruck fishmonger, their eyes coldly menacing, bodies slashed by the injuries the fishmonger’s blade had left. She looked about her, at a loss for what to do. But for some reason the street had suddenly emptied, and the mangy dogs sleeping in the dust at the other end seemed barely interested.

“Well, looks like a miracle just happened here,” said the huge mother fish, her full pink lips curling sardonically, algae-scented breath warm on the face of the witless fishmonger. “Isn’t that so, my good lady?”

For answer the fishmonger stared speechless around at her former charges, who had just a while back lain in silence in her huge basket, hardly muttering a grunt of protest as she went about making them ready for her afternoon customers. Now they stared stonily back at her, poised in a menacing ring that she could not escape.

“I see. So the miracle robbed you of your voice too, didn’t it?” said the mother fish, gesturing at the other fish with a turn of her head. “In that case I guess my friends and I had better get on with the business at hand. We don’t have much time, you see.”

A shriek rose at the back of the fishmonger’s throat as the other fish closed in, but it barely left her constricted throat. Their fins extended outwards like an octopus’s arms, foul algae-scented breath smoldering her as their fine layered gills pumped slowly, more like the membrane of the old concertina that the choir-master at the Catholic church played Sundays. They seized her with ease, lifting her off her feet as if she was a piece of sponge, despite the fact that she weighed over ninety kilos.

As she lay on the chopping board she yet again attempted to free herself. But she found herself held fast in place by coarse claw-like fins. With the fishmonger subdued, the huge mother fish took charge, seizing the sharp gutting knife that the woman had wielded so effectively just a while back. She held the blade up to the flame, peering along the length of the cutting edge which had been honed to the point of a razor by the knife-grinder just that afternoon. A satisfied chortle sounded deep in her throat as she sucked in her bulbous belly and bent over.

The slashes of the broad-bladed knife ran parallel to each other, the shallow gashes even, like the work of a seasoned surgeon. She first went to work on the broad back, slicing across the quivering spine from shoulders downwards. Next she worked the chunky buttocks and flabby thighs, seeming to enjoy the way the blade sunk into the soft flesh, causing it to peel back. The fishmonger jerked violently as the salt was poured into the wounds, trying desperately to free herself. But it was all in vain. Her charges were far too strong for her.

“Some spice perhaps?” asked the mother fish, gazing round at her mates. Her expression was that of a professional surgeon going about her daily work at the theatre. One of the fish proffered the tub of ground pepper that the fishmonger usually rubbed the little fish in to extend their shelf-life as they waited for customers. Mother Fish worked up a thick paste that would cover the whole body and went to work, kneading the pepper thoroughly into the flesh until her captive was red as a beetroot from head to toe. Then she stood back, a satisfied smile spreading on her face at her able handiwork.

“Now for the mouth-watering part,” she said softly, indicating the pan that was still boiling angrily above the raging flames. Like in all dreams, no one had as yet appeared on the usually busy road to save the fishmonger.

It was as the fishmonger was lowered headfirst into the frothing brown oil that Fanta had sprang awake, gasping for air in the thick darkness, her body drenched all over in sweat.


Mabati–  Corrugated iron/ rebar

Jiko–  charcoal brazier/stove

Busaa –traditional beer brewed from maize or barley

Mutura–  a delicacy made by stuffing an animal’s intestines with dried blood, bits of mince meat and spices, and which is roasted over coals. Similar to South African brae.

Mhindi–  an Asian

Sukuma-wiki–  kales (vegetables)

Ville-Juhani Sutinen (born 1980) is a Finnish writer, poet, critic and essayist. He has published four books of poetry (most recently Merkkihenkilön kuolema 2007) and one book of dialogue-based poems with experimental author Hannu Helin. His poetry has gotten more and more lingustic and semiotic with every book. Sutinen writes reviews on new poetry collections and philosophical books in newspapers and literary magazines in which he has also published something like a dozen essays dealing with culture writhing in a society saturated by media and misinformation. Sutinen has also translated over ten books from English to Finnish, including poetry (Lewis Carroll: Phantasmagoria and other poems), essays and classic prose (Thomas De Quincey:Confessions of an English Opium-Eater). Presently he is writing his first long novel and finishing up a collection of essays.

Stuck in the Desert

It was a lucky day. The new glue factory’s first shipment to markets in Sub-Saharan Africa had left fromGibraltar, which called for a celebration. The mayor cut a silk ribbon with gigantic scissors that seemed designed for cutting the nails of giants in fairy tales, his charitably-inclined wife praised the humanist tone of his speech touting the glue’s excellent qualities and the beneficial impact of the factory opening on the market of the whole area, a juggler tossed balls at the culmination of the event, and, in fitting with the theme of the day, pretended they were glued to his hands – the usual thing. Children screamed, joy was at its peak. The sun gleamed with some difficulty from the rooftops of an Andorran ski hotel as engines roared,the ladies cheered for their husbands on their way to somewhere beyond the sandy deserts, and the journey began, as all

things begin – supremely pathetic and with unnecessary enthusiasm.

The glue factory with its tall smokestacks shrunk in the rearview mirror of Sanchez and Mbayn’s truck until it looked as if they were seeing it through the wrong end of a telescope. The mellow stones ofGibraltarloomed in front of them, as a cargo freighter passed carrying the same precious cargo – fragrant glue for all the poor youth ofEast Africa. Life smiled on them, Sanchez munched on his sausage, Mbay dreamed of the juicy salary he would get from jobs as back-up driver, despite the fact that he was inSpainwithout papers. He, too devoured a sausage, but he didn’t squirt ketchup on top – a month on a tomato farm had left a mark on him.

Moroccowas lying on its side in the sun as the convoy of trucks traversed its already cracked roads. Trucks hummed over the broad shoulders of theAtlas mountains, descended to Ouarzazete’s rental paradise and were soon at the edge of theSahara. Sanchez and Mbay sighed, lit cigarettes, and filled their water bottles. A foot caressed a gas pedal, the fingernails of the sun scratched the ground hard, like the nails of a lover. It was time to cross the desert, like so many benevolent conquerors before them.

Shit luck. Nobody knew where he came from, but everybody knew where he was going – toward a secure job, or certain death. The desert is large, a person small. But banal profundities were no help to him – no one would give a ride to a refugee headed forEuropebecause it would end in a merciless shake-down. He had to walk across theSaharatoEurope, to happiness, work, money, durable shopping bags, baseball caps, refurbished ruins.

His uncle, not yet old but no longer in the full flower of youth, had sent a letter home along with the usual envelope of money praising the labor market in southern Europe – apparently even illegals could get jobs. A particularly good place was in a new company, apparently a factory producing glue, that was hiring non-stop, anyone at all, as long as they didn’t ask for much

in wages or ask for any fucking fantastic employee benefits.

The letter had convinced him to go. You just couldn’t make a living selling milk powder anymore, and the phone card business wasn’t putting any bread on the table, either. Besides, the house was getting crowded, and as the oldest son he was supposed to earn the money to build a third floor. He hadn’t managed to get rich at home but maybe he could succeed in the promised

land, inEurope– at the glue factory, naturally.

But first there was the desert – the legendary, punishingSahara. He put on his sandals, left without anyone noticing or caring, with bread, ugly fish, and twelve coins in his knapsack to get him through the evening and the freezing night.

“Vroom, vroom,” Mbay, or as young Sanchez jokingly called him, Uncle, said playfully as the truck crossed the landscapeless land and the sausage dwindled away and finally ran out along with the jokes.

“We do not have such cars,” Mbay proudly declared from the passenger seat.

“What kind do you have, then?” Sanchez asked, not focused on the road, because there was nothing to be careful or afraid of. There was nothing much of anything.

“Old shit cars. FromEuropeandAmerica.”

“If they’re old enough, they can get a good price from collectors.”

“What do you mean?” Mbay said.

“Vintage car collectors. They pay a hell of a lot for old sets of wheels and parts for them,” said Sanchez, thinking of his cousin Pepe and the things that poured into his garage on a back-street ofMadrid, all those odd parts that didn’t seem to belong anywhere, but he somehow found a place for them in the labyrinth of engines.


“It’s a hobby,” Sanchez answered simply.

“A car is a tool. Football is a hobby,” Mbay blurted.

“Anything can be a hobby, if you can afford it.”

The specially-designed tubes of glue jiggled cheerfully in the truck bed behind their sweating backs. Their trek leveled off like a seat in a reclining position, the sun sank somewhere beyond the vacation paradises and civil wars, and darkness came like someone had put a plastic bag over them. It came with the large size glue at no extra charge.

The biggest problem was that there was nothing to gauge the distance, there were no points of reference. TheSaharais not the romantic postcard of smooth dunes and mirages, of course. It’s full of rocks, hummocks, scree, and taunting spirits along with the sand. But still there is nothing to measure the distance: places and objects pass by, but there’s no more meaning in them than in the kilometer-high pillars of clouds. He put one foot in front of the other: it was the only unit of measurement. There were a wide range of jobs on offer at the glue factory: conveyor belt worker, test smeller, spilled glue clean-up, and of course back-up driver. If you didn’t ask any questions, or answer any if asked, you could get a position, a bundle of money, and a corrugated sheet metal home. A beam would do for a bunk, it beat the rough bed of a camp in the middle of theSahara. Home was far away behind him, and when he turned to look back at it, his new home shimmered behind his back in the other direction. He hadn’t met with a single other person, no one would hear if he yelled brand names, sang jingles from radio ads, often having to do with plastic bags.

He rested in the hottest part of the day and the coldest part of the night, continued walking in the mildness of evening and the crispness of morning. There were no signs to guide him, no rest stops. Not even any fools with anecdotes to pass a pleasant moment. The days followed one another like a motorcade, every one the same, each as interminable as the next. His feet felt loosed from the earth, from the home country he had already left far behind, and from the corner of the continent he was crossing.

Sanchez and Mbay saw something in the gleam of the headlights and it aroused both of them from the sleepy numbness that had overcome them as they drove across theSaharawithout getting anywhere. It was something other than stray bushes, rocks or sand dunes: it was a man. It was actually absurd to remember that the two of them weren’t living in the journey of the truck, in the radio knob, cigarettes, potato chips and bottled water, but in the very same world in which there were people who did crazy things like walking along the side of the road at dusk, building

rain gutters, peeping into strangers’ homes, swearing party loyalty, or drinking wine on verandas. But this person was just walking, as simple as that. It was something indescribable.

He was exhausted, but had nevertheless managed to maintain some degree of human dignity, to change clothes every now and then, stealing shirts from clotheslines and gluing the soles of his sandals back on when they came loose again and again – the glue was no good. The pillars of light on the truck blinded his eyes and he couldn’t see far into the future ahead of him, the one he longed for. But he knew: he knew he looked like a black statue in the artificial light. He closed his eyes and waited for the truck to rattle by.

It was too late. The road was narrow, the truck large. Sanchez made a quick evasive action, swerved away from the shoulder and tried to get back on the road. The tires, wheels of fortune, searched wildly for traction, the rubber whipping the air. The stranger was still standing on the other side of the road, eyes shut, motionless. The car hadn’t hit him, but now it leaned

in the sparkling night air, could not find its footing and threw its entire weight onto its side in the middle of the road, right next to the statue.

It was said later that the stranger had really been lucky, when you thought about it: the entire cargo had spread out across the road and over the desert, the glue squirted out of its tubes along the crumbling asphalt and the gentle, cruel surface of the sand, gallons of the stuff spilled everywhere. The night was filled the with the smell of thinner and crafts, but the car didn’t roll onto him. He was still standing in the field, waiting for the truck to continue past the car and take no notice of him, or at least not call the police, but the car wasn’t going anywhere. The glue flowed to his feet, wrapped around his toes, halfway up his legs, and began to solidify in the cooling night, making him even more of a statue.

“Uncle!” he managed to say as the morning light came, standing in the desert, solid, his roots loosed from his own country, in an oasis of the white product of the glue factory, looking at the back-up driver squeezed between the truck cab and the cruel earth.

Morgan Chipopu & Helena Oikarinen-Jabai

Morgan Chipopu was born in 1980 in the Zambia’s rural area. He served as the first Publicity Secretary for Zambian PEN Centre from 2003 to 2005. He was also appointed Trustee on the Board of the Young Writers Association in Zambia. His first book was entitled The Miseries of Girls, depicting difficulties of rural girls in Zambia. His second book was The Nomads: Tales from Africa. It is a collection of folktales recollected during his childhood. In 2007 the French Embassy translated The Nomads into French.

The God Above

In the land of chief Katata, there once lived a peaceful and loving people, united in care for each other. They believed in a God who, from the clouds of heaven, took responsibility for their every joy, success and sorrow. Because they spoke one language, they lived together in harmony. One day, however, a most respected elder raised some questions: what did their good God look like? How did He live? How beautiful was his palace? Because of the respected elder’s concerns, and his people spoke the same language, all agreed that the questions demanded answers. They resolved to build a tower, which would rise into the skies until they could climb it and see their God. As their plan grew in boldness, they even imagined overthrowing Him!

Men would be the major builders; women, boys and girls would help by ferrying water, food and building materials to the site. Everybody in the community would be involved in the project. There was such widespread faith and cooperation that they labored day in and out. They were within reach of completing the project well before they’d imagined.  Looking at the people’s determination, the God above came up with a master plan to defend himself against the people’s own plan. He would, once and for all, end the unity among them, and so rule them through eternity. He would stop them from communicating with one another. Unable to communicate, his people couldn’t help but fall into conflict. Though there would be no true casualties, they would forever remember who was master and where He lived.  He loosed the powers of the upper realm, instantly and fiercely striking their tower  in the middle. Their structure collapsed like a mortally wounded beast. The tower in rubble, everyone was confused. No one could communicate with another; none could agree on a plan; parents could not understand their own children’s language.   Thus were families  broken and people sent their separate ways.  God smiled down on the chaos. He knew that His plan would endure, that the human race would never again speak a common language, that men and women could never again unite to fight Him.

Helena Oikarinen-Jabai is a Finnish researcher and freelancer writer. She was born in Northern Finland. Like some of her age mates she moved to Sweden as a teen in the 1970s. She is married to a Gambian man and has two daughters. Nowadays she lives in Finland. By using artistic and embodiment methods she has approached the questions of belonging, identity and diversity in different communities, especially among children and women. She conducted her PhD – which deals with cultural in-between spaces and performative writing – in the University of Art and Design in Helsinki. (Syrjän tiloja ja Soraääniä: performatiivista kirjoittamista Gambian ja Suomen välimaastoissa ( ). As part of her dissertation she made a children’s book Mona’s and Sona’s Monday (Yhteiset Lapsemme, 2007) about Finnish-Gambian twin girls and a novel Hyme (Bod, 2008) that moves in between Finland and Gambia and ethnography and fiction.  Her present study explores question of belonging of second generation Finnish immigrants.


Gods of Swamp and Savanna

As a child I wandered the woods as soon as I learned to walk. I was allowed to go to the forest near our home without adult supervision. But a child has no business in a swamp alone. It was the most sacred, secret, enchanted, and dangerous place in the forest. Death lurked among the quagmires. Bottomless ponds waited to suck the careless wanderer into their cold wombs.

There were a lot of stories connected to the swamp. Adults often got lost there, and there were those who would never go back in. When my brothers went to the swamp lake to fish on the weekends, they seemed to their little sister to be crossing the boundaries of the known world. All roads in the direction of the bog led toRome. I had heard that evenLeningrad– present daySt. Petersburg– was built on a swamp. So I made a plan that in the future our village could build a place in the marsh where we could escape from the atomic bombs, a threat poured out by cold war propaganda.

My first trip to the swamp with my mother was an indelible experience. The blueberries at the edge of the swamp were gigantic. Startled adders wriggled among the damp hummocks, showing the way to cloudberry treasures. Some of the berries were still sheathed, others were unripe orange. On the fen the yummies were ready to pick.  Their golden yellow juice dyed our hands and dripped between our fingers. When we stopped for a drink I was enchanted as sundews with their colorful feelers held flies fast to their stems.  Ahead of us stretched the salt marsh, an endless rag rug that the sun had done her best to endow.

On the way home, we gathered headily fragrant swamp rosemary and birch twigs. We tied the birch branches into whisks to drive the evil spirits out of our skin in the sauna. We made bundles from the wild rosemary to hang in the clothes closets. We made tea from the leaves. We preserved the blueberries and cloudberries for the winter. They were served on holidays and to guests. If we got more berries than we needed for ourselves we sold them at the local market.

Later I was taken along on longer trips. Sometimes we walked all day in search of berries. It was a matter of honor to keep up with the adults without complaining. To slog through the marsh with good grace, enduring the burning sun and whining mosquitos, overcoming obstacles that came along, whether rivers or thickets, and gather as many berries as you could. So you gradually started to breathe with the rhythm of the swamp. When you stretched out on the soft moss the boundary between yourself and the world around you disappeared.

In the spring, when the swamp was still covered with a crust of snow, we gathered cranberries softened by frost and made a drink to chase away colds. The sun, returning on the other side of winter, reflected from the white land and wrote poems on the horizon with its rays. The ground under out feet was starting to awaken from its winter sleep – and so were the animals.

* * *

On the Gambian savannahs, my childhood experience of the swamp came back to me. Although the savannah is the complete opposite of the swamp in many ways, freedom flows in the veins of both. When people go to the bush inGambia, they mean the forests, farm areas, and bushes surrounding inhabited areas. These areas are safe, a continuation of home, a territory that belongs even to children.

The savannah is far away. There, a traveler can find herself in a mangrove forest or wetland where wild stories of hippopotamuses and crocodiles are passed around. Baboons weave games for visitors, in which humans have only secondary roles. In the depths of the savannah, latter day gods appear as spirits that were here long before we came. Under their protection a person recognizes her roots above and below. In the savannah’s embrace – as in the swamp – clouds passing by carry messages from the edge of the earth to keen ears and heartbeats hum in the sand.

Sometimes nomads, wandering in their blue robes with their herds of cattle, appear out of the savannah like good spirits. They bring messages from the world, where time and place go hand in hand. The wind sings in their flutes and the sea beats their drums. The shepherds greet the moon dancing, and it shows them the way to a place to come.

The savannah sun is strong and – as in the swamp – merciless. The ancient monkey-bread trees have learned to survive both cracked earth and rain that covers their thick roots. Nature repays them with nourishing fruit that both humans and animals crave. The savannah is also a treasure house for the healer. There you’ll find ingredients for medicines to relieve many aches and pains. TheSaharawind blows through the body and chases genies away.

Once I got lost on the savannah. I was out of water. I wandered thirsty, with no idea what direction I was going. The landscape looked the same in all directions. I couldn’t tell one tree or bush from another. Sand rubbed in my sandals. My lips were dry and the sun beat down on my burnt skin. When I was already thinking about giving up and sitting down to wait for evening, I saw movement on the horizon. Long-horned cows stared at me curiously as I dragged myself toward them. Their owners didn’t really take any notice of me when I reached them. I got in line behind the animals and was in turn offered water gathered from a spring. I savored the liquid in the drinking vessel, fashioned from a yellow can, like holy water, like a ritual.

The gods of the savannah and the swamp understand each other, although in the swamps of the north they lie dormant in the winter and move about all day and night in the summer, like the sun. In themidnightmist you can just make out Väinämöinen wailing his adversaries into the swamp. In the south, spirits rest in the breaks between breaths. You can hear the hum of the forefathers in them as the ancestors meet the gods. Sundiata’s years in his mother’s belly fatten in the endless waves of dunes.

There are spaces in the world where the powers of nature are concentrated. The swamp and the savannah are places like that. There the connection to the universe is straightforward. Time stops. Your needs simplify. You’re alone with your shadows. At once weak and strong. On a path.

Seedy Bojang & Petteri Paksuniemi

Seedy Bojang was born and raised in The Gambia, in 1970. He studied and works in journalism, specialising in research and writing. He was the editor of the defunct Gambian Independent newspaper, before becoming the chief proof-reader of the Daily Obsever. His published books include The Changing WorldABC Of JournalismDevil’s LoverBumpy JourneyTip Of The Iceberg and Shadow From My Past. He just completed writing his latest book, entitled Our Tears And Sorrows. He currently lives as a guest writer in Fredriksberg, Denmark.


Captain’s Mistakes

Brutus was one time beacon of hope for all its citizens. It was not long ago when Captain Bless of the Brutus army seized power and succeeded to put an end to decades of Dr. Thomas rule.

He was a true democrat and advocate of human rights and democracy. At a time when his cohorts were lobbying for one party rule, he was busy promoting multi-party system of politics.

Although he had provided enough for the people, liberated them from the clutches of colonial rule, and provided great social amenities for the people who lived in his time, many were of the belief that they had enough of him.

It was at the height of mounting power crisis between him and others when Captain Bless, coaxed a few senior army officers and struck against his rule. They seized all military installations, national radio station and took control of everything at their disposal. Many of the technocrats in the former regime were arrested and locked up in a tiny mosquito-infested prison.

After the operation was completed, but before it was announced to the public, Captain Bless had his tricks done to justify the coup. He surrounded himself with the country’s most renowned technocrats under the pretext that they were merely putting things in order before they would hand over power to a civilian government in due course.

He invited as many of his subjects as desired to participate in the revolution, either by supporting a transitional government or vouch their support for the emergence of the military in the body politics of the country. The challenge was to see whether Brutus people were really in for a change or would be appreciative of his long desire of becoming a self-imposed leader.

Shortly after the drama, there was an announcement that anyone who came out with the best blue-print for the army would receive a box of gold, the best national award and a million-dollar package, among others.

Prof. Bandi, a finest gentleman of the generation was also at the receiving end of the offer. They were used to sound the minds of the electorate and to draft a new constitution, only to become the victims of the self-perpetuated regime.

On the day of the coup, all the people turned on their radio to listen to this strange voice of a man who little was known about before they struck. Some of them had long dreamt of this day, when someone would just come from nowhere and take over the mantle of power, as writing was already on the wall.

The man could be heard biting his lips to deal with those he described as ‘corrupt officials bent on enriching themselves at the expense of the tax-payers.’

On this very Monday morning, some had fine clothing and fancy food to make the day a history in their lifetime. Some wore their sturdiest shoes and ran along the highway on their feet to show their skills, while students and workers rushed to do their daily routines.

Rumours abounded in town that there was a military takeover. And in the busiest parts of the cities, traffics were halted and nightlong curfew imposed to put certain security measures in place.

All daylong the coupists traveled the highway, and each one, when he arrived at the national radio station where they had arranged to meet after everything, complained to the captain about extending the transitional period, and to transform the military council into a political party. They wanted him to tell the people sweetest words, as they continued to strategise to provide cushion for themselves.

At the end of the show, a melodrama unfolded as a tired old man crossed the line warily and walked over to the captain. He was tired and hungry, and was without fish money for the day. And behind him there were other elderly people. They addressed the captain with great respect and handed him a token of appreciation and urged him to run for the presidency.

He said to them, ‘I only took over the rein of power to rectify a pile of mistakes committed by the regime and the hinges that were blocking the road to development and prosperity.’ As a strategist he said, ‘I leave the rest to Brutus people to decide for themselves. I am not interested in becoming a leader.’

The old men replied. ‘You are the rightful leader.’

‘Oh no,’ said the captain.

‘Yes, we mean you should put away your military outfits and run for the presidency,’ said the elders.

At this point, the captain scratched his head, and looked up and down. He then said ‘you’ve earned this gold and a package of million-dollar offer, for you won my contest. He who knows the heart of God best is he who makes the road better for those who will follow Him.’

The following day, the elders were seen in town, telling everyone that they were blessed with an anointed savior who had come to salvage the people of Brutus.

That’s what he told them in a secret meeting. ‘There is no point asking the boys to give the job to someone else when they can better do it,’ they would say in every meeting to canvass support.

There was another pause; this time around it was about a referendum to obtain the mandate of the people about the possibility of reducing presidential term limit to nothing more than 8 years, only to be later put into disarray.

However, this catapulted to a civil-military coup, led by Captain Kanata, who happened to be Bless trusted lieutenant. This was after the shattering effects of a series of rights violations against the people of Brutus, precipitating to unwanted demand for a protest.

Kanata went to the same military school with Bless’ chief of staff. They were classmates who had much confidence in each other. As cadet officers they had undergone all the routines of the training.

First thing in the morning they assembled in a roll-call to do their morning exercises, before a second whittle would be blown for a foot drill, usual classes, and to line up for their daily rations.

One fine day he was sitting in his palace looking into the future when sporadic firings were heard advancing towards the area. Moments later, his bodyguard was heard whispering into his ears.

‘There is a coup in the making. I wonder what you might say to that as it involves Kanata, who is at the helm of affairs,’ he said. He was known as no nonsense-looking man, who never liked senior officers to take advantage of the junior ones. He was always there for them.

‘This is ridiculous,’ said Bless.

But before he made up his mind to command the men on the ground, they were overcome and stripped off. They were then carried away by Kanata’s advance team, who were armed to the teeth.

The men wasted no time in ordering everyone to surrender to the order of the day. And then Kantara grinned and laughed. He said ‘they are often quite untruth about what they do.’

After addressing the people in a radio broadcast he said ‘there is no way our loyalty is crucial to the disadvantage of the people.’

‘We have had enough of empty promise and political rhetoric. So, there was no point giving him any chance to stay.’

Shortly before this incident, guards started shooting into the air to protest against unpaid allowances and poor living conditions. Also, there were civilians in the streets protesting against what they described as poor human rights records. The unrest spread to Libya, Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, etc.

Marches were held throughout major cities, urging the military to hand over power to a civilian government, as Captain Bless grip on the army gradually slipped away.

Petteri Paksuniemi (born 1965) is a writer who lives in Helsinki. He has written short stories, novels and children books. His newest collection of short stories, Jouten (Idling) will be published in March 2011. His novel Maailman napa (Axis mundi), published 2003, examines nationalism, right wing populism and racism in Finlad – and is the story of a man´s eternal desire to create something immortal. His novel Kirjailijan kuolema(Death of An Author), 2005, is set in the days of Finnish Civil War. In the past he has also released a few recordings with various music groups.

Raisin Buns

Steven looked out the window of the refugee center, situated in a district of small factories. Romanian gypsies had returned with the spring like migrating birds, the first camp had sprung up in these wasteland shelters. They came fromEurope, they were Europeans, members of theUnion. But they weren’t wanted here, begging and collecting Finns’ empty bottles.

Following the recent elections, one of the new breed of politicians, a tireless critic of immigration, received a landslide of votes and moved into the leadership of the committee responsible for immigration law. In his view, such abstract issues as equality and tolerance are foolish vestiges of a bygone world. The goal of immigration policy must be to pick the raisins out of the bun, opening the door for good working people, not layabouts who are forever living off government subsidies and grants.

Steven had come to Finlandtwenty years ago. He had been a student in his home country. He was supposed to become a journalist … write his opinions on the military government … a man like him, who loved Fela Kuti … In your dreams, babe!

Immigration officers pressed him about why and how Steven had come toFinland. He told them that he left his West African homeland because he was not safe there anymore, because he opposed the dictatorial president. If Fela Kuti wasn’t safe in his own country, how could he have been in his? He was a student, yes, he had participated in demonstrations against the government, he was arrested, he was interrogated, he had been beaten. More than once.

But there was a woman, a blond Finnish woman, who soon became his wife. In the first few years she repeatedly heard, mainly from drunken fellow citizens, what’s that Negro got in his cock that’s supposedly so much better?

Was Steven safe here? The authorities hadn’t beaten him, at least. Once when he was walking in the park behind the station some short-haired young men had attacked him, kicked him, knocked him on the ground and jumped on him to boot. As they left him there, one of them announced, Go the fuck back to Africa. You don’t belong here.

In the opinion of the authorities, however, he did belong – he didn’t exceed the quota. And, after all, he had Finnish children who seemed to belong here, naturally. Anyway it got easier over the years, somehow he and other West Africans finally weren’t such an impossible disruption. East Africans, especially, with their sense of family, came to be natives, neighbors.

Steven picked up his book and left the room, where he had just given his daily lesson in the rudiments of the Finnish language to recent arrivals seeking asylum. Basics of usage, survival vocabulary, not a word about this convoluted language’s fifteen case endings. He’d been doing this kind of work for a long time, translated documents from Finnish to English and vice versa, written newsletters and pieces about exile for small journals, washed dishes, distributed leaflets. That was as close as he had come to being a journalist.

Was he a better raisin than these people, stuttering out their first incorrect Finnish words?

One of the younger raisins in the yard came around the corner to talk to him. NN needed help. The immigration authorities had summoned him to discuss his expired residence permit, and how he intends to leave the country. But NN didn’t want to talk with them about it. He didn’t want to leave. Not that he was somehow attached to this country, but where could he go? He had friends here. They had just run into some difficulties. NN didn’t say exactly what difficulties, he spoke in a roundabout way, searching for English words. Some of them had been dealing drugs, a young Finn had died, friends were imprisoned. NN could not, of course, stay in their apartment, and he no longer dared to hang around the refugee centers. He knew that the authorities would soon be looking for him.

What kind of help was Steven able to offer? He couldn’t let him stay at his own home, it just wouldn’t work, he had a family. He had no money to offer, not even enough for himself – he has children.

NN just wanted a temporary hiding place, someplace safe until everything was worked out.

How he was going to get things worked out?

NN could not yet say. He had a friend with whom he could work at night, cleaning – the friend had promised to pay him under the table. But he couldn’t offer him a place to stay because, yes, he had a Finnish wife and children. NN just wanted to get a start, then when he had a job, he would go talk to the authorities – perhaps then everything would change.

Listening to NN, it was difficult for Steven to see the raisin in the bun, not because he didn’t want to see, it was simply very difficult to see. He gave the young man a few coins from the bottom of his pocket. He told him that an attorney specializing in refugee and immigrant issues came here – he gestured at the low concrete box behind him – once every two weeks. NN could come then to discuss the matter.

The young man shook his head, but he realized that the this was the best that things cold be worked out for today. He thanked Steven for the coins, however, and walked away across the empty lot.

Steven couldn’t say what kind of raisin he himself was – in fact he didn’t understand the whole metaphor. He didn’t even like raisins. Did the small, wrinkled, brown raisins taste better when they were picked out of the buns? He had seen Finnish children, his own children’s friends, pick out the raisins.

But as far as he could tell, they just picked them out because they didn’t like them, left them on the edge of their plates and ate the bun itself, the pale dough, topped with sugar crystals.

Elizabeth Pienaar & Rita Dahl

Elizabeth Pienaar was born in 1964 in Johannesburg, South Africa, where she still lives. She is an architect and writer. She won the HSBC SA Pen Award in 2005 and gained second place in the same award in 2006. Her novel, Ahkenaten’s Garden, was shortlisted for the 2006 European Union Literary Awards. The Gift, was longlisted for the 2007 European Union Literary Award. Her writing has been published in poetry anthologies (Over the Rainbow, 1996/7; Under African Skies, 1997/8), and short story anthologies (African Compass, 2005; African Road, 2006; 7th Annual Collection of the Caine Prize for African Writing (Jungfrau and Other Short Stories, 2007; Open, 2008) Her work also appeared in the print and online versions of the International Pen Magazine in 2005 and 2006, and in African Writing No 3.

Why did she turn her back?

This is a school dinner, a social organised so all the moms and dads can get to know each other. Cringe. Oh the small talk oh the sizing up oh just look at what she’s wearing and did you see the car they drive? Outside 40 little girls with assorted brothers and sisters, older (Yay, here come the babysitters!), younger (Oh god when will they go to sleep?), run wildly around the sports fields, giggling and fighting over fruit juices and ice cream.

Inside the adults filter through… and meet the ultimate horror… ten separate tables with no name tags. At once the cliques fall into place… in the corner of one table sit the small Muslim contingent that came out this friday night. In the other corner sit the black families… there are the Afrikaans ma’s and pa’s… and there are the WASPs (white anglo saxon protestants) … but wait… oh the Afrikaans group are splitting up, one family move to the WASPs, one go and sit with the Italians. But here in the centre we’re playing catch the oddments, we gather the single parents… there’s the demure new mom… being single obviously outranks being black… and here comes Ida. She’s close to six foot, every male eye follows her as she strides with determination towards our table.

What group do we form? What is our clique? The Hopelessly Eccentric? The Dowdy Mom’s Club? The Scared of Botox Babes? We’ve already moved two tables together so the divorced ladies don’t feel out. We insist the last two couples join us – never mind we know why they’re alone. (We’re very interesting let us tell you all about ourselves.)

And so we eat the middling to inedible food and the cash bar does better and better and I gaze along the run of our table… and why does she turn her back? Every time I look, Deborah has her back so firmly turned away from Ida it’s quite unbelievable. Of course she has a lot to tell her other friends about herself… of course she doesn’t like competition and Ida is far too attractive. She’s also black.

Desert comes. Coffee comes. She doesn’t move. Why does she turn her back?

At the cash bar I say to Ida, “She couldn’t twist much further without paralysing herself!”


“Oh honey! So it isn’t just in my imagination?”

“No Ida, it isn’t. What is her problem? Not that you’re missing much…”

“You know,” says Ida, in her ringing American drawl, “I can’t stand this anymore. The black people sit together and…”

“And the WASPs and the Afrikaners and the Muslims and the Italians…”

“I said to mah-self, ain’t nobody going to tell ME where to sit!”

“Good for you, Ida.”

“I like people. People. I don’t care what you wear or what car you drive or what colour your skin is!”

“Or where someone’s husband got his MBA?”

“You mean?”

“I mean that’s all else she’d have told you. Apart from details of her running. You didn’t miss much.”

Back at the dining room there’s gossip: about the persistent rumour that the politically connected kids are placed together in one class; that the clever kids are placed in one class; at some tables, that the Muslim kids are told not to play with the Christians; Christians are dirty; and at other tables, about the clique of white moms who endeavour to keep their girls together. They are, I am told, really racist beneath the facade. It’s clearly gone over my head: “Amy is always telling me about when she was hijacked,” says Rebecca. “Really?” I gasp, “I didn’t know she’d been hijacked.” Rebecca sits back, a smirk on her face. “Exactly!” Rebecca’s black. I’m white.

Why did Deborah turn her back?

Outside, I watch the kids form into their own little groups; the same cliques we see every day at school; there’s one interesting thing… these groups form right across the racial divide. They’re all at the top of the social pile.

Rita Dahl (born 1971) is a poet and author from Vantaa. She has published three books of non-fiction and five poetry collections. Her most recent books are a work of non-fiction called Finlandized Free Speech(Multikustannus 2009) and the poetry collection Bel canto nieriöille (Kesuura 2010). She has also translated and organized a selection of Alberto Pimenta´s poetry from the 70´s in Kivenheittopeli (Palladium-kirjat 2009). Dahl holds master´s degrees in both political science and comparative literature. She was vice-president and chair of the women writers´committee of Finnish PEN from 2006 to 2009. Dahl co-ordinated work for Central-Asian women writers, which included one international literary meeting in August 2007 in Helsinki and two anthologies: The Insatiable Furnace (Like 2007), in Finnish and English, and Nightingale in Cage (Iskender 2008), in Russian and English. Dahl has also worked as editor-in-chief of Tuli & Savu in 2001 and founded her own cultural magazine Neliö( She has presented her poetry in Mexico, Portugal, Brazil, Russia, Romania. She occasionally performs also as a soprano. Dahl has put together an anthology of ten contemporary Portuguese poets into Finnish, which she translated, as well as an anthology of young Finnish poets into Spanish and Portuguese. She is co-ordinator of this project between Finnish and African authors.

The Serpent That Swam Into the News

A young woman sits in a prayer position, muttering a mantra that sounds like a prayer. I pass her quickly, at a distance, just so I don’t end up bending down in front of her. But the woman is not alone. On the same street, an old man sits in a prayerful attitude – perhaps the woman’s father? Some blocks away, at the Stockmann delicatessen entrance an old woman coughs, dressed in rags – the family’s grandmother?

The Satamarakennus (HarborBuilding) was closed a few weeks ago. “The beggar problem” has become an increasingly prominent part of the downtown cityscape. Everyone is forced take a position on it, and many are voting with their feet. The mayor has already expressed a position on the matter. The Roma are talked about as a problematic minority. During the Second World War there were other minorities that were considered problematic inEurope, and were eliminated – with the moral approval of many – by the millions.

It’s in the news, too. Most often described as “a problem to be solved.” Not just our problem, but a common problem throughoutEurope. Roma culture has a resistance to the modern – or perhaps just the globalized? – rules of the game. They are suspicious of education as a means of learning the rules of the game of a foreign culture. Like many other indigenous people, they want to continue to live honorably within their own traditions. But mostly they are driven to the northern and southern cities to seek a living in the streets, by begging or by illegal means.

This is how we know “them”. But too often we forget that even “they” have mothers and fathers and want to live as dignified a life as possible. This is true for anyone, whether your refrigerator is full and a lamp burns in every cozy room, or you’re sunk in the depths of the bread line, whether you feel safe, or so unsafe that all your spare time is spent hunting for a sense of security or in a deep torpor.

In addition to the Roma, there are many others arriving, almost always from the south. We receive each arrival in the shape of a form to fill out for asylum or immigration. Believe me, I think they should have to fill out these forms – I am, after all, an overeducated Finnish citizen. And they fill them out obediently without understanding any of the officialese, because they really believe that this is about the closest place to paradise that they can imagine on earth.

What they don’t know is that here, too, there are people without homes, friends, help, support. That, in fact, particularly here there are such people, but they are silent! People who move from one injection needle or bread line to the next and can’t fill out a single form. In fact, they don’t even know about the forms, don’t even know they exist. Their problems won’t be solved by their own efforts.


“Violence overshadows the Nigerian elections’ declares the national television and radio news. Violence which has killed ten people. Corresponding headlines from South Africa and Ivory Coast read: “South Africa – Land of Hope,” “World Cup Football 2010” and “Ivory Coast Troops fire on UN Weapons Inspectors”, “Côte d’Ivoire’s Cocoa Supply Still in Sufficient,” “Violence Threatens to Escalate on Ivory Coast.”

We watch news from the whole African continent, all theAfricas, with blinders on, one-eyed and deaf. And that one eye always singles out the election surprises, the wars, the sporting events we all collectively cheer. That’s when we can scream our throats hoarse for our national team. Or – if our team begins to feel too narrow – cheer for our neighbor, or more radical still, another team that represents our continent.

Meanwhile an internet search tells us that in the upcoming parliamentary elections, “only a few Finland Swedish intend to vote.”

The first results of a search for “True Finns” are “Coalition Party and True Finns Have the Least in Common” and “Popularity of True Finns At a Record High”. The True Finns, who have climbed to a level of support of nearly 20 percent at a record pace, would like to close our borders and enact an unprecedentedly tough immigration policy (or perhaps end immigration altogether) and a cultural policy that yearns for the “National Romantic” art of over a hundred years ago. The “patriotic” art of Jean Sibelius and Albert Edelfelt, who spoke Swedish as their mother tongue, represent the values of the supporters of the the “traditionalist” True Finns.

Our borders have been opened, legally or illegally, to all kinds of phenomena – currencies, companies and individuals – citizens, those without citizenship, an endless cycle of people and goods, those who are playing with their lives and those looking for a different kind of security. There are many interests using the prop of patriotism or liberalism in an effort to establish support for a wide range of ideas, whether these relate to immigration, Russia, Africa, emerging and developed countries, sexual minorities, different ethnicities, Islam, freedom of speech, Latin America, democracy, or gender superiority.

This one-eyed culture of silence is emerging together with a complex crisis that will either force us to take a stand or drive some interested parties to find opportunistic uses for large-scale crises. When a muzzle is taken off after a long silence, the noise is usually terrible, downright deafening, and the ensuing fuss forces us to take a stand. Formerly unwanted and undesirable positions appear. A wide range of opinion makers, governmental bodies, NGOs, businesses and political actors and institutions will try to take advantage of the situation. Even more meaningful and far-reaching than the short attention span of opportunism are the large-scale structural changes in the state, in the values and attitudes of individuals and political institutions and actors. A still more important issue for our common future is whether our words match our deeds.

Nationalism in its various forms usually raises its ugly head when something somewhere is already on fire. Our House of Parliament has been lit on fire and the Bank of Finland will follow suit, not to mention businesses, which will be foremost among the truly trans- and counter-illuminating forces of our society to be destroyed. Even the public sector can no longer rest in peace. I’m not talking aboutNigeria, theIvory Coast, orSouth Africa. I’m talking about this paradise of peace which has been infiltrated by a serpent. That serpent is so loud, and so silent, that the noise it makes penetrates our ears. We are forced to take a stand. It is an unpleasant reminder that we, too, may some day drop into an attitude of prayer on a street corner. And when that happens, who will drop ten cents into our coffee cup?

Toyin Adewale-Gabriel & Katariina Vuorinen

Toyin Adewale Gabriel was born in Ibadan, Nigeria, in 1969. A poet and author, she has studied literature and English, and has also worked as literary critic for various newspapers in Nigeria, including The GuardianPost Express andThe Daily Times. She was cofounder and coordinator for several years of the Association of Writers of Nigeria. Her works include Naked Testimonies 1995; Breaking The Silence, 1996; Inkwells, 1997; Die Aromaforscherin, 1998;Flackernde Kerzen, 1999; 25 New Nigerian Poets, 2000; Aci Cikolata, Gunizi Yayincilik, 2003; and Nigerian Women Short Stories, 2005. Above any consideration of gender, the poetry of Toyin Adewale shines in the contemporary world as one of the most beautiful and outstanding voices of the new African poetry. Her work is a kind of cultural mixture where the common issues of African poetry appear: the savannah, the faunae, the beautiful landscapes, the geography of pain -Goree-, etc., and along with these elements there are others that belong to universal poetry, from other latitudes and cultures that result in a unique mixture of great beauty and that have a strength which seduces us and absorbs us into its poetic heartbeat. In her poems we find elements that surge upward like wild grass and that bet for a manifestation that goes beyond what is simply poetical and lyrical and thus finds images bitter in flavor, ironical and painful, an itinerary of pain.

The First Flight

Over the glint of sunlight,

over the orange marmalade, spilling on the pancakes of clouds

over the butter mints and snow white lollipops,

I reach for the candy floss of rainbows.

On the wings of the wind,

I sit by the window at the crack of dawn.

The sky is corn gruel, filled with sugar and Peak milk

And I am every child, licking my lips on wonder.

Before the inevitable moment.

Before the meal of rice and beans,

before the jarring touchdown and the

clamouring suitcases, I pull a cloud and

the nipples of Mother Sky.

Katariina Vuorinen was born in 1976 in Southern Finland. She has published three collections of poems. Her themes include feminism, childhood, sexuality and nature. She feels more at home abroad, especially in Africa and South America; but she has worked in the University of Jyväskylä and was elected president for the Association of Writers in Middle Finland.

The Days in the Sun

Those short moments when you see the sun
are the tightest, gleaming memories,
they petrify a glimpse and that big tree that you heard closing the birds in.
They grow and burst into the silent moments,

they become endless and magigal, and you keep looking at your dreams
filled with bottomless water, water which makes you blind,
it is too bright to sit down and watch.
You gaze through the lids and feel
rows of warm teaspoons on your face, just picked up from
dozens of cups of tea. You have to wake up again. You have to keep filling
all those hopes you cannot fill, they are not hopes but shattered mirrors,
it is too bright to raise the lids and shake.

You keep staring at your hidden drawings

of the shore and waves and endless days of unveiled joy. You are drawn
wrong, hands in the air, in the distance and away from others, running
with an empty jar. The jar is cracking and you stop abruptly to hold it in place
as you would help a bone to mend properly. Against your flat chest. It is too bright.

Morgan Chipopu & Helena Oikarinen-Jabai

Morgan Chipopu was born in 1980 in the Zambia’s rural area. He served as the first Publicity Secretary for Zambian PEN Centre from 2003 to 2005. He was also appointed Trustee on the Board of the Young Writers Association in Zambia. His first book was entitled The Miseries of Girls, depicting difficulties of rural girls in Zambia. His second book was Nomads: Tales from Africa. It is a collection of folktales recollected during his childhood. In 2007 the French Embassy translated the Nomads into French.



In my Africa

Hand shake is master

In the homes

At funerals

And on the streets


My hand is shaken

When heart broken

Or disease stricken

When hunger strikes

I receive hand shakes


The dawn of creation

And adoration

I like it here

Especially with canning hares

And several other beasts


In my Africa

Babies don’t cry louder than mothers

Weeping and wailing Is common among congregated mourners

Especially at funeral homes

Yet handshake still reigns


With a frown in my heart

I receive a hand shake

Knowing that it may mean life or death

Life if it is a clean hand

Death if it is a dirty hand


Helena Oikarinen-Jabai is a Finnish researcher and freelancer writer. She was born in Northern Finland. Like some of her age mates she moved to Sweden as a teen in the 1970s. She is married to a Gambian man and has two daughters. Nowadays she lives in Finland. By using artistic and embodiment methods she has approached the questions of belonging, identity and diversity in different communities, especially among children and women. She conducted her PhD – which deals with cultural in-between spaces and performative writing – in the University of Art and Design in Helsinki. (Syrjän tiloja ja Soraääniä: performatiivista kirjoittamista Gambian ja Suomen välimaastoissa ( ). As part of her dissertation she made a children’s book Mona’s and Sona’s Monday (Yhteiset Lapsemme, 2007) about Finnish-Gambian twin girls and a novel Hyme (Bod, 2008) that moves in between Finland and Gambia and ethnography and fiction.  Her present study explores question of belonging of second generation Finnish immigrants.



Furtive touch of fingertip

hands find each other


How are you? How’s the family? And the children? Everyone?

Sisters, brothers, cousins, fathers, mothers, namesakes?


Languorous rhythm of words to open the way

our palms on the intricate threads


Life line coming up from the wrist

punctures a path to the savannah


The wind tells tales

of times buried in the sand


When the tops of men’s heads skimmed the skies

and women were bold as lions


Escorted by a forest spirit

we come to the braided lines of heads, shadows of each other


Little brooks bubble from the valley spring

children’s happy laughter, morning glimmer


Sweet sleep becomes

a gust ascending from the sea


Continents collide at the line of fate

buried beneath the waves


Villages bathed in moonlight

sheltered under blue wings


You lean against the doorway

watching through the years


I wish you a good journey

and you the same


Find a resting place

in the shade of a monkey bread tree


I was here the tree says

before the continents found each other


Before the white man

raised his sails


Before the ocean

ate its children


Dreams were reflected

in my rugged trunk


Fates moved through my veins

from the crust of the earth to the firmament


The heartbeat dances

to the next path


The sun rising along the vertebrae

out through the head


A song spreads

In fingers’ shadows


Memories seep

from deep in the flesh


We stretch out languid toward the dunes

raise our arms toward the currents of air (maybe they’re called trade winds)


Passing clouds smile

bestow an armload of drops


The familiar haggling of market vendors

smoke flavoring the twilight


Our hands cupped to clasp

our children, our mothers, our fathers, our sisters, our brothers, our ancestors’ memories,


encounters, sunrises and sunsets, the shimmer of the moon, the wakes of boats, the dusty sand, requests extended to the gods, the swish of leaves, the hope of lullabies, tomorrow.

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