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Sanna Saastamoinen-Barrois’ photography installation in Vallisaari celebrates 100-year-old Finland´s slash-and-burn culture

7/13/17

Sanna Saastamoinen-Barrois:
SWIDDEN ROTATION
Photography Installation
Vallisaari Island, 24 May ‒ 30 September 2017

Sanna Saastamoinen-Barrois' photography installation, currently on display in front of Alexander's battery on Vallisaari Island, presents the slash-and-burn process and its impact on nature. In the installation, which communicates with the beautiful natural features of Vallisaari Island, Saastamoinen-Barrois studies the slash-and-burn process phases, cycles of nature, and her own roots.

The Swidden Rotation installation consists of a series of photographs that was shot in the Telkkämäki Nature Reserve in Kaavi. Twenty large images printed on canvas have been hung, in a rather impressive manner, on cable wires in front of Alexander's battery. The installation communicates both with nature and with the varying weather conditions, providing visitors with a unique experience.

Photo: Sanna Saastamoinen-Barrois

Swidden Rotation is a very personal work for Saastamoinen-Barrois. Before shooting the installation, the artist had just returned to Finland after spending many years in Paris. Her time abroad prompted her to reflect upon her own roots and homeland, which initiated her interest in photographing the cycles of Finnish nature.

"After spending my first winter in Finland in 17 years, I shot the slash-and-burn process in spring in Iisalmi where I had spent my childhood. The winter had been like a womb to me; the darkness and the silence had brought me into their soft embrace and insulated me from the world. The contrast with the life in the metropolis was huge. I missed home a lot during my last years in Paris, in part because of my children. I wanted them to form emotional bonds with other places as well, and not just with the asphalt world of a metropolis. I wanted them to understand berry and mushroom picking and how to live in harmony with nature. I wanted them to experience how it feels to see light after the long winter.

Shooting the Swidden Rotation installation had a strong impact on me after the dark winter season. The snowdrifts had only melted a couple of days earlier. The light had returned, huge volumes of it. And the birds and the leaves. Next to the slash-and-burn field, I saw a signpost by a spring. The spring water babbled so beautifully," says Sanna Saastamoinen-Barrois, reflecting on the shooting process.

Slash and burn is part of the history of Finland's forests and agriculture. In Finland, its roots extend to the prehistoric era. Slash and burn also led to the spreading of settlements to North Savo from the 15th century onwards. Swiddens in coniferous forests, in particular, were a precondition for the development of new settlements in Savo. When people in other parts of Finland started to cultivate fields, slash and burn remained an important form of agriculture in Karelia and Savo until the end of the 19th century. It was only given up when forests became more valuable, in financial terms, and the forest industry started to develop. The last swiddens were burned in Savo in the 1940s.

Photo: Sanna Saastamoinen-Barrois

"This series of photographs recreates the slash-and-burn activities that were common centuries ago. The surrounding forest, the burning ground, and the thick smoke from smouldering fires provide both a concrete and poetic framework for this backbreaking work. Visitors are also on their own journeys through the installation, which is set in the heart of Finland's history and in the unique, protected landscape of Vallisaari Island," says Exhibition Curator Marjatta Levanto.

Swidden Rotation is part of the official Finland 100 programme.

More information

  • Sanna Saastamoinen-Barrois, born in Iisalmi in 1975, is a multitalented creator who works as a visual artist, photographer, and fashion designer. She has held several exhibitions both in Finland and abroad. Currently, she spends her time in Helsinki, Nuuksio, and Paris. Saastamoinen-Barrois is working on the Female and Nature exhibition, which will open at the OFR Gallery in Paris in September 2017.
  • The photography installation is on show in the yard at Alexander's battery on Vallisaari Island. There is no entrance fee to the exhibition.
  • Hourly transport to Vallisaari Island (vallisaari.fi)

National Park Bringing New Feeling of Optimism to Hossa

by Fran Weaver, August 2017

Lenny Daly of the local firm Hossan Lumo feels that the new Hossa National Park provides ideal settings for the trendy outdoor activity of SUP-boarding. The Daly family's dog Vicky is also on board. Photo: Maija Daly, Hossan Lumo

The opening in June 2017 of Finland's 40th national park at Hossa, to mark the centenary of the Finland's independence, has been a great boost for local entrepreneurs offering services related to nature tourism and outdoor recreation. New jobs and income are very welcome in this part of Finland's north-eastern borderlands, between the towns of Kuusamo and Suomussalmi.

The clear waters and sandy shores of Hossa National Park are particularly popular among paddlers. Visitors can rent kayaks from local firms or join guided paddling tours to discover the park's highlights. Photo: Hannu Huttu / Metsähallitus

Local firms are already providing a wider range of services for increasing numbers of visitors with different interests. The small family firm Hossan Lumo, run by locally born Maija Daly and her Irish husband Lenny Daly, rents out equipment including fat tyre mountain bikes, kayaks and SUP-boards, while also offering cosy cabin accommodation and lovely lakeside locations for tents and caravans.

Lenny Daly feels that Hossa provides ideal settings for many popular outdoor pursuits. "Hossa's clear blue lakes are great for paddling, and Finland is now also catching on to the international boom in SUP-boarding," he says. "The trails along Hossa's sandy ridges are likewise ideal for mountain biking or hiking." 

Hossa Reindeer Park gives visitors to the nearby national park a chance to get up close to reindeer. Raili Karvonen brings tasty snacks out to some of the park's residents. Photo: Sini Salmirinne

Maija Daly believes that especially for foreign visitors, Hossa's new status as a national park makes it much more attractive than its previous designation as a hiking area. 

"There's a new feeling of optimism as interest in Hossa increases, and people are getting keen to branch out and start new businesses and activities."  

Joga instructor, wilderness guide Saija Taivalmäki is one of the new entrepeuneurs working in Hossa National Park. Photo: Raili Takolander

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