Being Black – Afro Finns’ Experiences represents a diverse Helsinki
The new exhibition, opened at Helsinki City Museum on 22 April, examines Afro Finns as part of Helsinki and life in Helsinki. The exhibition has been created in collaboration with Afro-Finnish young adults. The young people themselves and their experiences take centre stage along with memories of older people from their youth in different decades. The exhibition is historic, because Afro-Finnishness has never before been presented at this scale in Helsinki.
The Being Black – Afro Finns’ Experiences exhibition examines Helsinki from the point of view of Afro-Finnish and Black young people. The cultures of minorities are intertwined with mainstream culture in many ways. Awareness of one’s own history and family traditions is a resource that carries from generation to generation. The exhibition provides food for thought on diversity, minorities, Afro Finns, identities, traditions and recording one’s own history. The City Museum also wants to encourage all people in Helsinki to see diversity as part of the City’s rich culture.
The central themes of the exhibition include family relationships and friendships, beauty ideals, identity and activism as well as the challenges posed by studies, employment and mainstream culture, such as feeling like an outsider and facing racism. The exhibition features an extensive selection of snippets of Afro-Finnishness and stories of significant Afro Finns. The City Museum will host e.g. a hair salon offering visitors the opportunity to examine the diversity of afro hair and hairstyles. A large selection of photographs depicting the daily lives of Afro Finns from decades past to this day will also be exhibited in the museum.
“The exhibition is historic, because Afro-Finnishness has never before been presented at this scale in Helsinki. The exhibition has been created in collaboration with Afro-Finnish young adults, and it encourages Afro Finns to identify their own distinctive cultural heritage and cherish it. I hope that the exhibition strengthens identity and the feeling of togetherness among young Afro Finns,” Curator Wisam Elfadl says.
In the exhibition, Finns with roots in sub-Saharan Africa and Finns who identify with the African diaspora in a wider sense are referred to as Afro Finns. Not everyone defined this way feel that they are Afro-Finnish, and black people and people with African origins living in Finland do not have one common identity, history or culture. How should Afro-Finnishness then be recorded for posterity? This question will be examined at the City Museum as of 22 April.
Workshops and programme related to the exhibition organised at the City Museum in the spring and summer
You should consider visiting the exhibition several times, because it will be supplemented over the spring and summer. You can complement the exhibition with your own experiences, images or objects in the workshops.
During the opening weekend, the AFROFINN FASHION fashion show will be held in the City Museum lobby. During the event, Good Hair Day will celebrate different afro hairstyles and curls and Basaari (bazaar) will bring Afro-Finnish vendors, entrepreneurs and craftspeople together. Being Black – Afro Finns’ Experiences will also expand to East Helsinki, when a sister exhibition of the City Museum is opened in Vuosaari House on 15 June.
The Being Black – Afro Finns’ Experiences exhibition was curated by Wisam Elfadl, who has previously worked for Cultural Centre Caisa and the Afro Finns as interpreters and creators of cultural environments in Helsinki (Afrosuomalaiset Helsingissä kulttuuriympäristön tulkitsijoina ja muokkaajina) project at the City Museum. The exhibition was produced by Eero Salmio. The exhibition was designed by Alina Pajula, and the graphic design was created by Jade Lönnqvist. The implementation of the exhibition was a collaboration with the Museum of Impossible Forms and the Afro-Finnish community in Helsinki.
Photo: Maija Astikainen / The Helsinki City Museum