Helsinki — the first Safe Haven city in Finland? Symposium in Ateneum-Hall, 3 November

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The Safe Haven Helsinki? Symposium is a forum to address the growing importance of Safe Havens, that is, residencies for art professionals at high risk. In the context of an increasing number of serious conflicts and crises afflicting the world, there are already 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, Helsinki City Council will vote to decide on whether to establish a two-year Safe Haven residence for art professionals, as well as to institute short-term residencies aimed at providing a “breather” after an artist suffers serious violations of freedom of expression in their home country. Short-term residencies have been organised by Perpetuum Mobile and HIAP over the past two years in Helsinki with very positive results.

The Safe Haven Helsinki? Symposium is organised by Perpetuum Mobilε and HIAP — Helsinki International Artist Programme in coordination with the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN), which co-ordinates the network of Safe Haven Cities and Regions. One of the keynote speakers of the Symposium 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 w the first short-term resident in Helsinki, Ramy Essam from Cairo. “The voice of Tahrir Square”, as he is known, will speak about the meaning of the “breather” residency, which he took up after being tortured and forbidden to play music for two years in Egypt. The discussion will include a panel with 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 Helsinki, following Ramy Essam, the current short-term residence programme for art practitioners at risk has hosted the photographer Issa Touma from Syria, the curator and researcher Vasyl Cherepanyn from Ukraine and the rap-musician El Haqed from Morocco. In addition to voicing their support for the programme, each of these former participants has engaged the local community through a range of performances, exhibitions and installations. This pilot programme, a rare initiative internationally, is being financed by the Nordic Culture Point and the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture. SafeMUSE Norway is a collaborator for organising «breathers» for musicians at risk.

In general, ICORN member cities offer a temporary two-year shelter to writers and art professionals at high risk. To give one prominent case, 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 also organised 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 worldwide. Traditionally ICORN member cities have hosted writers and journalists. Today, however, 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 and the Nordic Fresh Air programme in collaboration with Ateneum Art Museum.

The Symposium also is a spin-off of The School of the Displaced initiated in the context of the Kyiv Biennial 2015.

The discussion will be held in English.

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

For further information & interviews contact:
Marita Muukkonen
Perpetuum Mobile ry
Tel. +358 40 725 4050
[email protected]



Perpetuum Mobile is grateful for the generous funding of Nordic Culture Point which made this project possible.


Further funders of the School of the Displaced include SafeMUSE, ICORN, IASPIS and in-kind contributions by local actors such as Frolivska 9/11 Volunteer Centre, the Living Room bar-cafe Kiev, HIAP and Ateneum, National Gallery of Finland.