Artist and research residents
University student interns
Villa Karo aims to build a bridge between Finnish and African artists, researchers and cultural figures. Primarily our job is to offer Finnish artists and researchers and other cultural and societal figures living in Finland an opportunity to do a residency in Africa.
Villa Karo was founded by writer Juha Vakkuri (1946-2019), who over the years acted as an executive director, chairperson as well as Benin’s honorary consul.
Villa Karo is located in Grand-Popo, Benin. Benin is a friendly country, where the strong local culture has lasted better than in many other countries. Grand-Popo is a calm fishing village, which guarantees the visitors a peaceful work life and inspiring milieu.
In addition to the residency, Villa Karo is a Finnish-African cultural and research center, which provides free cultural services to the local inhabitants as well as work spaces to multidisciplinary artists and researchers.
The activities of the cultural center include concerts, theatre and dance performances, movie screenings in the outdoor movie theatre, meeting and seminar spaces, a library and two museums as well as art, environment and language workshops.
Villa Karo’s operation is supported by the Ministry of Education and Culture and Svenska Kulturfonden, and during the season 2021-22 by Otto A. Malm Foundation.
Villa Karo’s board of directors:
Maria Björnberg, chairperson
Kivi Vakkuri, vice-chairperson
Web page’s banner photos: Sampo Kiviniemi (2018-2020).
Villa Karo's operation goes through fourfold bookkeeping, and auditors work in both countries. Membership fees go toward the well-being of the Beninese staff.
Villa Karo’s staff and families in Benin are covered by the health insurance. Health insurance is supported through the membership fees.
Villa Karo organises trips to Benin for its members. Customised trips with excursions are organised with the participants' wishes.
We deliver our member’s shipments to Benin with certain restrictions.
The visa for Benin is done online on Benin’s immigration service site. We offer members detailed help with their visa and other requirements.
Director of the centre and residency
In 2000, Juha Vakkuri established Villa Karo so that that Finnish artists and cultural professionals could work in an African environment, in collaboration with locals. Africa was part of Juha’s life throughout his adulthood, he worked for the UN in Zambia and the US, and he travelled around Africa. He wanted to open the gates of the sunny continent for Finland, which saw Africa as an unknown even scary place. Villa Karo was named after Karo Vakkuri, Juha’s 15-year old late son.
Juha was not only a writer and journalist but also a visionary and realiser of large projects. Juha’s accomplishments are also recognised on a national level, as he was named Benin’s honorary consul in 2012. Above all, in Grand-Popo Juha was seen as a father figure, who could be trusted and relied up on. Juha’s death in 2019 was as if a large tree had fallen and left behind a large empty hole. Juha, with his work, had already planted many a tree which continue to grow after his departure.