KALEVALA and The Lord of the Rings

As a Finnish-Canadian artist, I am drawn to learning more about the very ancient roots of my family in the Old World. In writing about these discoveries on this weblog, I hope to share some of these with other expatriate Finns, artists and everyone interested in this multicultural world. Maybe even my children will learn more about their heritage. For me, it is fascinating to find the connections in our cultures and history.

The KALEVALA is Finland’s national epic. The first edition appeared in 1835, compiled and edited by Elias Lönnröt, who devoted many years travelling around Finland and Karelia collecting the ancient sung runes or poems. The Kalevala had a great impact in a growing Finnish nationalism, long suppressed by Swedish and Russian rule. It influenced many artists in Finland and abroad, such as Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha and J.R.R.Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

In the National Geographic News, we learn that a native of British Columbia, Canada, anthropologist and ethnobotanist Wade Davis traveled to a remote corner of Finland to uncover Tolkien influences among the ancient rune-singers of the Kalevala. It’s a fascinating story, worth reading!

ADDED March 4, 2004: about Elvish

and Nov.23, 2004: more about Elvish

Rock art research

In my research into the history and art of my ancestors, a wealth of information has come from Loit Joekalda of Estonia. He believes the best researcher of the rock art of the Fenno-Ugrians is Väinö Poikalainen, chair of the Estonian Society of Prehistoric Art**, of Tarto, Estonia. The society publishes papers on rock art and folklore to Folklore.

Poikalainen wrote a book review about KALLIOKUVAT KERTOVAT (Pictures on rock are telling) by Pekka Kivikäs (Atena kustannnus oy, 2000. 124 pp. In Finnish.) He writes:

The art teacher Pekka Kivikäs has become well-known for his work as an active documenter and publisher of Finnish rock paintings… the book is aimed at the wide circle of readers interested in the ancient culture of Finno-Ugric regions…Kivikäs considers rock art the silent message of man from behind the thousands of years, to perceive which one needs to relax, listen and see. When we loose the ability to do this, we also loose[sic] the possibility to perceive those near us and our environment.

Folklore has also printed an article by Kivik&#228s (PDF) on the subject.
UPDATE: March 21.05 **link no longer active


Continuing the story about our travels in conjuction with our Traces exhibition in Vaasa

Leaving Helsinki, a fast ferry ride across the Gulf of Finland took us to Tallinn, Estonia with its fascinating medieval walled old town, surrounded by a busy city rapidly catching up with the west after the Soviet collapse.

We met award-winning printmakers Virge and Loit Joekalda, who gave us a grand tour of the studios of the Association of Estonian Printmakers, and the Estonian Academy of Arts, as well as their own studio and several galleries and exhibitions.

Loit had just installed his exhibition of frottages and photos from his expeditions to sites of rock art by Fenno-Ugrians in Karelia. Seeing this work was, for me, a totally unexpected, mind-blowing and breathtaking experience! For some years I have been fascinated by this subject, and here was an artist, a kindred spirit, who had actually been to these sites! Loit is a very active member of the Estonian Society of Prehistoric Art** and the Fenno-Ugria Foundation.

Virge has exhibited and won awards in a great number of international print exhibitions, as well as travelled to many places. To see her work, visit Kunstikeskus, available for viewing for a little while. We felt extremely honoured to have met and become friends with this exciting couple!

UPDATE: March 21.05 **link is no longer working, unfortunately

Fenno-Ugrian people

Some of my image research delves into the marks left by early humans, particularly the Fenno-Ugrian peoples. Their region includes Finland (my birth country), Karelia (now in Russia), Estonia and Lapland or Sami.

The Gallen-Kallela Museum in Finland had an exhibition called “Ugriculture 2000 – Contemporary Art of the Fenno-Ugrian Peoples” with an excellent catalogue. Besides the art works shown, there is an interesting map of the areas where the many different but related groups live across northern Europe.

Read more: UGRICULTURE 2000, Contemporary Art of the Fenno-Ugrian Peoples

More about Fenno-Ugrians: Finno-Ugric World