Miikka Pörsti reports from Ilomantsi:


“I hear it’s louder here now than during the Winter war”, said member of the jury and outsider artist Eero Pulkki as the Bear sculpting championships had just begun in the keskusta of Ilomantsi, 10am this morning. Many of the 32 competitors are using chainsaws. However, some of them, like Beninese competitor Florent Nagoba, scholarship holder for VK and the Union for Rural Education and Culture, work with their handmade custom tools.


Estonian sculptor colleague Raivo inquired if Florent’s instruments had been made the same way as the Sampo. Yes, his tools are an accomplishment of a very skilful blacksmith (taitava seppä in Finnish, kvalifitseeritud sepp in Estonian). But unfortunately, for both Finns and Estonians, the Sampo has been destroyed a very long time ago. As the picture tells, talk of this tragedy devastated both competitors. To not unnecessarily darken the moods of the sculptors, the VK media team left the premises to enjoy a cup of coffee and a delicious vatruska in the nearby coffee shop.


Nevertheless, the competition is now on and our cheering thoughts are with Florent, proud son of Benin, who competes as number 24 until Saturday morning. By then his artistic vision and gifted hands will have turned a large log of scots pine into a bear.

Stay tuned.