ILOMANTSI. Lot’s of – excuse me – damn good coffee is being consumed today in this lovely town that reminds many of the TV cult classic Twin Peaks. As the third day of the contest is starting, many sculptors are beginning to feel tired after laborious hours spent carving and long evenings spent Eastern European Style (za vas!). Although the mood of this place is very lynchian, we are not here to solve the murder of Laura Palmer but to witness a true mystery.
There are a few hours left of the competition and we are beginning to see that the logs that the 32 sculptors have been carving for now two and a half days, have never actually been trees. No sir! It is obvious now for all of us present here that the 100-year old pines and spruces have always been bears and that the artists are simply setting them free with their skill and intuition.
This morning it is also the time to celebrate the Father of Evolution’s heritage. As a sign of it our scholarship holder Florent put a Darwin cap hat on and grabbed his new Italian pal’s chainsaw – for the first time in his life. Fulvio Borgogno was happy to teach his Beninese colleague how to use this powerful tool. Florent seems thrilled about this evolution as an artist and has now a few more tricks and techniques in his pocket to bring back home.
As mentioned earlier most of the contestants are using chainsaws and other motorised tools. Florent and Fulvio are the only two to be doing most of the work by hand. In this sense, Florent is a double rare bird, both as the only African fellow in Ilomantsi and as a sculptor working mostly with traditional methods. This makes of Florent and his working site perhaps the most interesting place to visit for tourists and locals that are gathering now in town for the Bear festival starting tonight.
The bear is a mighty animal. We haven’t seen any live ones so far, but local hunter Arto was generous enough to borrow the skin, skull and penis bone of a 200-kilogram beast he shot in 2012 to the Bear festival. “And if someone claims that there is no bone in the bear’s prick, he is darn wrong!”, this fine local gentleman told MSL and VK reporters during this morning’s press conference, swinging the bone in question in the air.
Indeed, the bear is mighty in many ways. The power of the animal also inspired our scholarship holder Florent. “My piece is called A Mighty Rest (Fr. Le repos puissant), as I was inspired by the fact that when winter comes, the bear goes to hibernation under the snow”, he says. “It is this mighty rest that gives him back it’s God-given force.”
Here in Ilomantsi we are still hearing the mighty sound of chainsaws raging into the bear-logs for a couple of hours. This afternoon, at 4pm, silence will fall back from the skies upon this mysterious place.
And tomorrow, 24 hours later, we shall know the name of the first ever world champion of bear sculpting.