Trauma, Memory, and Art: SELMA taking part in Change2017


”You must be the change you wish to see in the world”.

Picture: TFO Change 2017

Change2017 has been a project connecting art and research in an exploratory and affective way. Organised by the Turku Philharmonic orchestra and musicologist Susanna Välimäki from the University of Turku, Change2017 has asked whether music can change the world, and how it could do that. Music has the power to communicate without spoken words, and during the lecture series it has been discussed, how we could approach the meaning of life and responsibility of humans in our culture and society. Themes have covered for example peace work and environmental questions.

SELMA was asked to take part in the series under the title Satyagraha, a term by Mahatma Gandhi referring to peaceful, non-violent opposition. Our discussion evening focused on the meaning of art in traumatic happenings, and the ways we remember trauma through artistic processes. Our evening was related to SELMA’s earlier projects, and particularly to our Travelling stories -workshop at Aboagora in 2016.

In Trauma, memory and art – spaces of encounter organized at the Turku city library 26.9.2017 six people met to share and discuss their experiences, memories and research. We focused particularly on how literature, poetry and narrativity could help in coping with encountering traumas, dealing with them and memorizing them. Our aim was connected to the concert organized in relation to this evening, “Sorrowful song” (Symphony no. 3, Symphony of Sorrowful songs op. 36) by Polish composer Henryk Goreckin (from 1976) that deals with the loss and sorrow of parents and children in the midst of wars.

The second floor of Turku city library was filled with people who listened intensively the whole discussion. Cultural Historian Maarit Leskelä-Kärki from SELMA started by speaking about sorrow, poetry and meaning of writing in the literary identity of Aino Kallas during the war years in the 1940s.
Poet Akhlad Al-Mudhafar read his poetry in English and in Finnish that recollects his experiences and memories as a refugee and the ways how writing has been a means to chace the memories and to deal with them
Literary scholar, literary therapist Päivi Kosonen told about Georges Perec and read parts of his autobiographical piece Ellis Island, that recollects the histories of those who immigrated to the US through the Migration process in Ellis Island in New York.











Professor of Comparative literature Hanna Meretoja discussed how concepts of trauma and cultural memory are present in literary history




Director and script writer, and activist Aziza Hossaini recollected her experiences as a child refugee and immigrant, and told about her film project Salaam Suomi, that studies the relationship between Afghan mothers and their daughters in a foreign country






Puppeteer and literary artist Laura Sillanpää told about her Other stories -project with asylum seekers and discussed the ways how art and play and theatre could help with encountering and with finding your story.
















Akhlad Al-Mudhafar’s poem written for this occasion on trauma, writing and memory:

This is a complication

The fear surrounded me

My memories came from all directions

I heard echoes of my memories

I went to the shore hoping I can wash them away

Flowing like a river looking for an escape

But since the first kiss between my pen and papers

creativity exploded

and my vision became clearer

I started chasing my memories

Stepping into the unknown and facing their mysteries

and make beauty out of them

Like a lost sun in the universe looking for its earth

to give it warmth


They have stolen my colours

and driven me so far into the darkness

They threw the ancient night over me

But they were ignorant about its secret

They thought I was defeated

But they didn’t  know the dark suits me

I am the black raven

I solved the puzzle

and embraced agony

I kept my eyes closed

to see the light

I surrendered to fate

collecting the fallen feathers