Press release: Villa Karo becomes a cultural and acedemic institute


Finland's network of cultural and academic institutes expands to Africa.

The annual meeting of the Finnish Cultural and Academic Institutes Association approved on the 25th of April the Cultural Centre Villa Karo in Benin as a member of the network of institutes. This brings the total number of Finnish Cultural and Academic Institutes to seventeen.

Villa Karo is a Finnish-Western African artists' and researchers' residence and cultural centre located in the village of Grand-Popo in Benin. The aim of the centre is to increase the knowledge of artists, researchers and cultural influencers about West Africa and to promote cultural exchange and interaction between Finland and West Africa.

Villa Karo is the first institute in Africa. After joining the Finnish network of institutes, the centre will be renamed the Finnish Cultural Institute for West Africa, Villa Karo.

"The emphasis with West Africa will be on cultural interaction, increasing mutual understanding and knowledge, and jointly seeking solutions to challenges such as sustainability and social development," says Hanna Lämsä, Executive Director of the Finnish Cultural and Scientific Institutes Association.

"It is important that Finland and the other Nordic countries strengthen their relations with Africa also in the fields of science, art and culture and between civil societies. Finland can afford to increase its knowledge of the countries, societies and cultures of the African continent. We warmly welcome Villa Karo to the network!"

Villa Karo provides artists, researchers and cultural and social professionals with residencies and, where possible, scholarships for residencies in Benin.

"A new cultural institute on the African continent is an important and timely policy decision," says Julia Ojanen, Executive Director of Villa Karo.

"We live in a situation where the interdependence between the African continent and Finland is complex and strong, but dialogue is limited by many physical and mental barriers. It is no exaggeration to say that the cultural continental plates of our time are moving towards the African continent, and Finland needs cultural bridges there now more than ever. It is a great moment for Villa Karo when our 24 years of work in intercultural scientific and artistic cooperation is recognised as part of Finland's official network of institutes."

Villa Karo was founded in 2000. It is run by the Friends of Villa Karo Association in Finland. The cultural centre's activities include concerts, theatre and dance performances, film screenings in an open-air cinema, a library and two museums, and art, environmental and language workshops for local people. Villa Karo is funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture and Svenska Kulturfonden.

The original press release can be found in Finnish here.

Photo: Hannu Lindroos