Asian Festival Opens in Helsinki

For the next 11 days, Finland’s capital of Helsinki will be celebrating various Asian art forms as the so-called “Asia in Helsinki” festival kicks into gear. It is the 10th annual festival of the sort, and taking centre stage this year are the Asian countries that bore the brunt of the Tsunami on December 26 2004. The list of exhibiting countries includes Indonesia and Thailand.
     In spite of its name, the festival is not just a Helsinki-event. Events such as films and exhibitions will take place in different parts of Finland. In the city of Tampere there is an exhibition of Asian textiles at the Vabriikki museum.

Carrying on a Legacy
Among the contributing guests are artists from the Aceh province on the northern tip of the Indonesian island of Sumatra – one of the badly hit areas in connection with the dreadful Tsunami in 2004. Mr. Sri Wahyuni, one of the directors of the Aceh Cultural Institute, is the head of a group of 17 people from Aceh. The artistic leader, musician Teuku Khamsyahfuddin, is also in Helsinki, where he will be playing drums in a percussion band.
     However, were it not for the Tsunami, the group from Aceh might have been a lot bigger. According to Mr. Sri Wahyuni,170,000 people in Aceh died in the tsunami, and they do not know how many artists lost their lives.
     “We do know that many great artists of the older generation were lost in the tsunami”, Sri Wahyuni tells the Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat this week.
     Participating in the Asian-Finnish arts festival is of great importance to the team from Aceh –but personally and culturally.
     “We did not only lose people to the Tsunami – we also lost all historical documents, our identity. Now we have a great task ahead of us, as we try to reconstruct the history of Aceh,” Sri Wahyuni says.

For more information about the “Asia in Helsinki” arts festival, go to the official website: http://www.kulttuuri.hel.fi/aasia/2006/index.html

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