Helsinki - the First Safe Haven City in Finland? Symposium

3 November, Ateneum Hall, 4-5.30 pm

The Safe Haven Helsinki? Symposium is a forum to address the growing importance of the Safe Haven residencies for art professionals at high risk amidst the increasing number of serious conflicts and crises afflicting the world. The symposium is held in collaboration with The International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN), an independent organization of cities and regions offering residencies for art professionals at risk as a direct consequence of their creative activities. There are more than 50 Safe Haven cities worldwide, 30 of which are located in Nordic countries. Helsinki would be the first city to join the network from Finland. 

In November the Helsinki City Council will vote to decide on establishing a two-year Safe Haven residence for art professionals at high risk in their home countries as well as instituting short-term residencies aimed at providing a “breather” after suffering serious violations of freedom of expression. Short-term residencies providing a “breath of fresh air” for visual art professionals and musicians at risk have been organised over the past two years in Helsinki with great success through a partnership with Perpetuum Mobile and HIAP. 

One of the keynote speakers in the event is Ashraf Atraqchi, an art critic and journalist, who has written about the deliberate destruction and theft of cultural heritage by ISIS in Mosul, Iraq until his life was threatened and he fled in the wake of a failed murder attempt. Currently Ashraf has a Safe Haven -residency in Stockholm. The second keynote speaker was the first short-term resident in Helsinki, Ramy Essam from Cairo. “The voice of Tahrir Square”, will speak about the meaning of the “breather” after being tortured and forbidden to play music for two years. The discussion will be joined by the director of the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN) Helge Lunde, journalist Iida Simes from PEN, Helsinki city council member and activist (SDP) Thomas Wallgren and Co-director of Perpetuum Mobile Marita Muukkonen.

In addition to Ramy Essam, the present short-term residence programme in place for art practitioners at risk has hosted photographer Issa Touma from Syria, curator and researcher Vasyl Cherepanyn from Ukraine and rap-musician El Haqed from Morocco. In addition to voicing their support for the program each of these former participants have engaged the local community through a range of performances, exhibitions and installations. The internationally rare pilot project is being financed by the Nordic Culture Point and the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture.

ICORN member cities offer a temporary two-year shelter to writers and art professionals at high risk. Former Safe Haven/ICORN resident Svetlana Alexievich was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature this year. She was an ICORN guest writer in Gothenburg, Sweden and is a bright example of how cities of refuge matter! She returned to Belarus in 2011. The Finnish PEN association has organised earlier residencies for writers and journalists at risk.

During the last decade a need for Safe Haven residencies has increased greatly due to censorship, harassment, imprisonment and violations of freedom of expression of writers and other art professionals. Traditionally ICORN member cities have hosted writers and journalists. Today art practitioners with a political position express themselves through an expanding range of media such as visual art, street art, performance, film and music.  

The Safe Haven Helsinki? Symposium is organised by Perpetuum Mobile ry, HIAP ry, the Nordic Fresh Air -programme in collaboration wirth Ateneum Art Museum. 

Time and Place

Tuesday, 3 November, 4:00–5:30 pm

The musician Ramy Essam will perform at the end of the event 

Ateneum Hall: Kaivokatu 2, 00100 Helsinki, Finland