The annual World Village Festival (Maailmaa kylässä) had been planned for the last week and due to youknowwhat has been cancelled. Well, in the light of the Black Lives Matter protests I here, under the veil of the internet, admit here that I have always been slightly sceptical towards the mission of the festival. What or whom does it want to present, and more importantly, why and how?
Originally the goal was to present civil society actors, but it has since grown into a festival for, well, anyone who is interested in anything society-related and freebies. There is a particular geo-cultural theme every year, it draws attention to global issues, but it does that using Finland-based participants, organisations, experts, minorities. It is multicultural, but it is also very Finnish in doing so. It draws attention to the difference, it exoticises (autocorrect suggested eroticies) immigrants’ cultures in Finland and overshadows their endeavour to be accepted into the society and treated as its part.
I’m afraid that (not) attending this festival has become one of those markers that divide the society into tolerant and multicultural and -conscious and the rest. And you do not want to be the rest. It is a low-threshold large event for anyone who is not racist and who is positive towards sustainable material and cultural practice (basically, pretty much anyone). Attendance at the festival is performing a cultural role, presenting your NGO labels you as open and receptive without actually needing to do anything in these matters. That’s why organisations that are not known for being culturally or otherwise aware attend and try toimprove the public image.
Don’t get me wrong, the festival is great fun to attend, but it is an experience that should be treated with a pinch of salt. The way I use it is that I collect the festival guide with the list of participants (and put it into use in fact!), get some good “ethnic” food, pick-up freebies and greet friends. The rest I’m a bit careful about. Having said that, I don’t have an answer ready on how to get the general public interested in global issues, but I don’t think that having local Somali association, crafted handbag vendor, Perussuomalaiset, soy milk producer, African dance workshop and serious expert talks under one (open) roof.
The festival has grown so much as it has outgrown us. And for me, Black Lives have always Mattered.