In the end, I thought that despite of all the difficulties I had to face while doing my project it was all worth it. The difficulties were the things that taught me most and I was really very concretely confronted with cultural differences. If I would have only worked with my violin (which I did by the way surprisingly much) or only be writing and studying for my next book and playing with professionals I think my experience wouldn’t have been so deep. When so many Villa Karo artists were writing or speaking about “the search for the real and original” Africa, I really was contented just with the experiences I had. It was real what I felt, real differences, but also real similarities. I was happy to meet “my children” in Grand-Popo. I was happy every time, and it was quite often, that any one of them came “just to say hi” to me on the street and I was happy that many of them came to listen my concert on the final evening.
In fact I am late with my writing, I have been back in Finland already for some time now, but in a way my project was still unfinished. Tuesday 13th of May I went to visit one school class here in Lahti in Karisto School and I spent one lesson with these 10-year-old children speaking about my experiences in Africa. They had also participated to this school project in Lahti and we changed experiences. They had sent their drawings with me to Benin and now I came back with the drawings we made with the Beninese children. The pictures from Benin were a great success! At the same time there were many other subjects that we discussed. We spoke about Benin, about its nature, how it is hot there, about the school life in Benin, about the birth certificates and passports and possibilities to travel. We also spoke about religions, different habits and the children’s rights. And then we spoke some words about the cruel history of the slave trade.
The children had many comments and questions, but they listened especially intensively when I told them the story of my friend and colleague from Benin. Percussionist Gustave Amour told me what he experienced when he was told about the slave trade for the first time at school when he was a child. He said that he remembers how he came home that day so upset that he thought that he would not ever want to meet any white people in his life. How was it possible that the white people had been selling his grand-grand-grand-fathers? Then Amour continued that when he thought about it more after a while he thought that actually what had happened in history was not the fault of the white people living nowadays. And then he also thought that some blame for this terrible history was also in his own people who were in charge and who had allowed the slave business to go on. And so he then made peace with the whites in his mind. I thought this was a very good story to tell to Finnish children living now, because it is so easy to imagine how one would feel as a child about hearing for the first time about such a cruel history concerning your ancestors. After I had told this one girl raised her hand and said: “but how can any king or anyone for that matter ever imagine for a moment that any money or any diamonds in the world would be enough to buy a person? Because isn’t it so that every person in the world is so valuable that there is not any amount of money that would be enough to buy him/her.” What else was there left to say to the children? I just said that I wish everybody would think like that.
"I don’t know what is the “right” way for an artist to travel to Villa Karo, what are the “right” work forms and “right” results. But I am happy that I experienced what I experienced and I am convinced that these experiences will affect my work and myself."
Besides the school project I also had time for different experiences. I played with local musicians, improvised more than ever in my life, practiced with big inspiration my own classical repertoire, gave one violin lesson, met the people at the African Art Center and played with them a highly inspirational session, traveled, played some music for a Togolese danseur Estelle Foli and Finnish choreographer Ervi Sirén, had many interesting meetings and conversations and I thought a lot. After the trip, it has been somewhat difficult to settle at home. Something had changed, it is hard to put a finger on it, but it was a big experience. I am happy that I have already had many contacts with my friends from Benin since I left for Finland. And I hope it will stay like that.
I want to thank everybody in Villa Karo to make us feel so much at home!