Here we are, gathered on the stairs of the Mekrijärvi ResearchStation.
From the left, back Sinikka Vakimo, Galit Hasan-Rokem, Richard Bauman,Swaminathan Lourdusamy; Next line from left: Juhani Luhtanen, David Gay,Aili Nenola, Tuulikki Kurki, Barbro Klein, Hamza Njozi, SabarimuthuCarlose, Jo Ann Conrad, Borjigin Buhchulu, Seppo Knuuttila, LillisO'Laoire; Front line from left: John Miles Foley, Kaisu Kortelainen, Lauri Honko,Anna-Leena Siikala, Lotte Tarkka, Outi Lehtipuro, Lauri Harvilahti, Anna-Marie Foley, Pulikonda Subbachary, Baiba Meistere, Lotten Gustafsson, Eeva-Liisa Kinnunen, Kathleen Glenister, Bjork Kjaer, Alam Habib-Ul-Alam, SteinMathisen, Isabel Cardigos, Erik Nagel, Elina Makkonen, Niaz Zaman, KaijaAlajuuma, Kaija Heikkinen, Leena Waismaa-Matsi, Maria Vasenkari,Xiaoping Dong, Pekka Hakamies, K.V.S.L. Narasamamba, Stephanie Smith,Ulo Valk, Irina Vinokurova, Surjeet Singh, Chogjin, Maria Palleiro, HandeBirkalan (absent: Helmi Järviluoma, Ermis Lafazanovski, LidiaTojdybekova).
The following articles are personal reports written by members of the FolkloreFellows' Summer School 1995. Two-week long Summer School took place inJune 26 -July 9, at Mekrijärvi Research Station of Joensuu University,Finland. Electronic version of this page may still evolve. This version wasedited and updated 10-10-1995 by Sinikka.
More official reports will appear in the forthcoming volumes of FFNetwork published by Folklore Fellows (Turku, Finland) and in NIFNewsletter, published by Nordic Institute of Folklore (Turku, Finland).
This year's FF Summer School turned out to both the smoothest and the mostenriching of adventures for all those students who, like myself, were set toundertake a journey into the remotest of far-away lands. We were very wellguided from the outset, detailed instructions and advice, programs, papers fora preliminary background study of the general theme started pouring throughthe letter-box from the moment I was accepted for the Course. Those werecombined with letters from my own group leader - Aili Nenola - inpreparation for the joint work coming ahead.
Whilst still immersed in my busy life at the south-west tip of Europe (theUniversity of the Algarve being in the south of Portugal) it was reassuring tofeel that its furthest north-east was friendly beckoning and that the path toreach it was becoming clearer and clearer.
Because of flight-booking problems, I arrived one day too early. Peepingdown from the aeroplane I could already look forward to landing on abeautiful country. In the flight that took me to Joensuu, as I was leafingthrough my FFSS papers, a gentleman sitting accross the aisle asked me if Iwas who I was and introduced himself: Pekka Hakamies, the Summer Schoolsecretary general. I had earlier been assured that someone would be meetingme (together with Pulikonda Subbachary, another early arrival) at Joensuuairport; but the lucky accident of being escorted from Helsinki by the coursesecretary general struck me as a good omen. I would not feel lost, I couldrelax. Then, together with Leena Waismaa-Matsi who was there on arrival, wewere taken to the University of Joensuu and introduced to other staffmembers:strange names, new faces who were soon to reveal themselves as the mostefficient and pacient friends one could hope for in a foreign country, Sinikka,Kaisu, Tuulikki...
Subbachary and I stayed at the University flat, where a lovely breakfast wasawaiting in the fridge for the next morning (I came to know them well, thesebreakfasts of salad, cheese and ham sandwiches, plus yoghurt, fruit... I missthem, too). We spent the next day at the University, while waiting for the bulkof the arrivals. I then had a good foretaste of how wonderfully looked after wewould be in the forthcoming days. As soon as I expressed my wish for aword-processor, I was given an office, complete with WP and Kaisu, whohappily came to my rescue everytime I needed help or instructions and whogently tailored me into the ways of the land--the hardest of which being itsstrict non-smoking rules (of course I came back home a muchhealthier-looking person). I also have to include in this lengthy prelude thevery nice lunch we had at the cafeteria, simply because neither Subbachary normyself were supposed to arrive until later and, nevertheless, we were madewelcome and looked after with a generosity and good-will that were totallyunprogrammed.
As the bulk of the participants arrived, we were all taken to the UniversityResearch Station at Mekrijarvi, where the Course was to take place. It cameto be the ideal space for a working holiday--no contradiction in terms forwhoever took part in the Summer School: the eerie beauty of the surroundingscreated a sense of peace that invited work and was both relaxing and joyful.
We soon got into the routine of morning lectures, afternoon group-meetings,with meals and coffee snacks sprinkled throughout the day; then, sauna &swimming, the experience of my life (I shall never forget being suddenlyflagged by the most unexpected of ladies who burst into the cabin with abundle of birch twigs); finally, an unscheduled gathering in the living-roomof Building E (with unscheduled drinks and night-caps provided) that couldstretch to the latest hours of a never-darkening night.
The standard of the morning lectures was superb. I was spoilt with a bouquetof some of the best lectures I ever had, delivered by names I was familiar withon paper only. Many were accompanied with written papers, plans,bibliography, back-up articles that we could keep and allowed us to enjoy thespeaker withouth the hassle of taking notes. We sampled a variety ofapproaches to kin subjects and models of lecturing. A much needed half-hourdebate (should it, perhaps, be extended?) followed each lecture, and it was atreat to be able to later approach the lecturers to discuss the fine points of thelesson outside the auditorium, over a cup of coffee.
The group-meetings were informal seminars on our chosen subject (what couldpossibly be formal in that wonderful countryside setting?). The group-leaderswere some of the lecturing professors. There were, therefore, two mainlectures on, say, Gender (my group) given by Aili Nenola for the benefit ofall. In these group meetings we actively participated in the on-going research,for which we had previously been briefed with specific papers and invited todo our own. At first, all the group had in common was a subject of interest.In our Gender Group we were not even all women, and had come fromcountries set wide apart in the world. Gradually we became friends,marvelling at the riches of one another's differences, enabled to "bridge gaps"and work in depth at what held us together. The problematic divide was stillthat of gender, a fact which, in itself, justified the existence of such awork-group. Key-words like "cultural identity" and "conflict" were mellowedby others like "bridge" and "negotiation" which, having arisen in theauditorium lectures, turned into a natural praxis throughout those days.
We also had two afternoon symposia, one on the epictradition of the Silk Road and the second on Kalevalaicpoetry, which closed with an extremely beautiful performance of rune singingby Heikki Laitinen and another of laments by Martta Kuikka. Juhani Luhtanenintroduced us to his team's endeavours on a CD Rom inprogress on Finnish oral tradition.
Routine was periodically broken with outings. The first was just round thecorner, where Laura Jetsu introduced us to the Sissola rune-singing houses(whose wardenship is now in the care of Joensuu University). That now silentspace peopled by memories was a foretaste to the live performances that wecame to hear in the symposium mentioned above.
Our expedition to the "Petrun praasniekka" (St Peter's festival) in Hattuvaarawas meant as field-work "observation", it turned out to become an emotional"participation" as we were invited to join the procession and share the finalblessing outside the little St. Peter's church. This expedition gave rise to aremarkable video which, together with a number of papers and debates in thefinal presentation of the work-groups, gave justice to the beautiful event anda voice to the mixed feelings it aroused in the field-workers as researchers andinvolved spectators.
Our Gender Group, who was first intended to base their research on the "Petrupraasniekka", came to find an alternative gold-mine for field-work in anunscheduled "Beer and Pig Festival" in nearby Ilomantsi. Its end-product wasa final presentation with a video film and a joint report made out of a"collage" of each member's insights on the event from the view-point of itsimplications on gender issues.
There was also an outing to the Valamo Orthodox Monastery and LintulaOrthodox Convent in Heinavesi, which I had to forego in order to catch upwith our group work. I remember it rained and the day was was cold for ussoutherners, but there was no need to worry about those who went: there wasunvariably a ready supply of raincoats for the unprepared. In fact, on theirreturn, everyone talked excitedly about everything except the weather.
We still fitted in a visit to Joensuu University and (after having been providedwith an emergency glossary each) had a free afternoon for a walk round town.The inhabitants of this immaculate and beautifully quiet town seemed not tobe unduly disturbed by this outburst of tourists invading its Museum, its shopsand restaurants.
Apart from the happenings that unvariably stretched throughout the evenings(with Finnish Lauri Harvilahti, the Macedonian Ermis Lafazanovski and theIrish Lillis O'Laoire spectacularly making up for the lack of stars in the sky),there were two formal evening events: a cultural evening in which all thestudents were made Associate Members of the Folklore Fellows (its certificategiven by Lauri Honko himself), as well as presented with an FFC booktailor-made for their special interests, graciously handed in by the everpresentAnna-Leena Siikala, Chair of the Summer School. The closing-party startedwith a gorgeous meal in a dining-room specially decorated for the occasion.The four dinnerladies dressed in north Karelian style, were then given a roseeach, if the roses had been planned, the cheers that greeted them were not,they were of sheer gratitude for the way we had been spoilt all the time bytheir culinary skills. (The success of certain Karelian pies had been such that,one morning, along with the papers displayed in the entrance hall of theauditorium, there was a pile of "Karjalan piirakat" recipes for us to try backhome. . .)
We were entertained on both evenings with Karelian players and singers, thelast ones already met and joyfully recognized as the choir ladies from the"Petru praasniekka" festival. During the party, each and everyone of us washonoured - "us" including, by then, the students, the staff, the teachers, theorganizers. In a remote village, nested in the heart of Finland, so close to aborder loaded with ominous memories, we were all - Finnish, Swedish,Norwegian, Danish, Estonian, Latvian, Russian, Tanzanian, Macedonian,Mongolian, Chinese, Indian, Bangaladeshi, Argentinian, North American,Portuguese, Irish - we were all celebrating being a family, singing ourdifferences, rejoicing in our friendship.
Our only enemies had been the mosquitoes. Still, some of us would regularlyventure outside the hall, in the urge for a cigarrette or just to take in the clearair of the night. As I was persuaded to join Kaija Heikkinen for a farewellnight cycling ride into the forest, I remember leaving behind a fewflower-garlanded heads, so decked in recognition for their accomplishments.This report is my written garland to all and everyone of those who made thisSummer School such a perfectly wonderful event.
Isabel Cardigos, University of the AlgarveFAX: intl. +35189818560
This is a report written by Baiba Meistere. Greetings to everybody!!!
Group 1 was one of the five research groups working during FFSS 1995. Thesupervisor of our group was professor Anna-Leena Siikala. As she explained,the goal of our group work was to discuss both the general topic -"Tradition - Authority and Authenticity" - and our personal research problems. To makediscussions more fruitful, prof. Siikala suggested analysis of a concrete event - St. Petru praasniekka in Hattuvaara village, thus connecting theoreticalproblems under discussion with the fieldwork.
Our group work was carried out very intensively, and included followingstages:
1) Getting some information on the history of the Praasniekka (an article ofAimo Turunen, comments of prof. Siikala etc.).
2) Participating and observing the Praasniekka, recording it on video (ErmisLafazanovski).
3) Discussions on the methodological aspects of the interpretation of the event,choice of the performance approach (the title of our group report - The St.Petru Praasniekka in Hattuvaara: reading a performance).
4) Cutting three films (also those taken by. prof. Niaz Zaman and Erik Nagel,the participants of the other groups), making the most complete version.
5) Description of the Praasniekka from the different points of view:Praasniekka - tradition and its religious background (Ulo Valk, Estonia);Enhancement of the benevolence (Ermis Lafazanovski, Macedonia);Praasniekka as a performance (Pulikonda Subbachary, India); Joining theseparate (Lotten Gustafsson, Sweden); Poetics of ritual: reading theappearances (Baiba Meistere, Latvia); The seen and unseen (Xiaoping Dong,China), discussions, putting the parts together, making commentaries on videofilm.
The most valuable experience of our group work was that everybody of theparticipants went through all the stages of folkloric research work, startingwith going out in the field, and ending with a ready product - the group paperon the Praasniekka. Thus it was possible to discuss a number of problems thatemerged during this process, eg. fieldworker as an observer (outsider) withlittle knowledge of local culture, his/her impact on the festival events; the roleof the inherited tradition in preserving Karelian culture; transformation of thetradition in time and space; display of syncretism of the folk religion and theOrthodoxy in the Praasniekka etc.
Although the most of time was devoted to the description of the Praasniekka,every member of the group had a possibility to deal with his/her researchinterests as well. Everybody is grateful to prof. Siikala for finding time alsoto inform us about the recent publications on the topic.
Baiba Meistere, Archives of Latvian Folklore, Riga,Latvia
The lectures were all thought-provoking and stimulating, approaching subjectsfrom many different angles. The attempt to redress the eurocentric imbalancein the field of folklore was an important landmark along the road to achievingsome equality of representation in the area. It is only now, on my return, andin approaching familiar topics that I realise that things appear differently. This,I think, would not have happened if I had not attended the FFSS.
Time was very limited in the groups for real discussion and I would like to seesome changes to attempt to accomodate more discussion. I felt that the thingsI learnt from the submission of my own paper could equally well have beenlearnt from reading a prescribed programme of relevant articles andsubsequently discussing them. It was difficult for me to articulate a researchproblem before going there, and I spent quite a lot of time working on thepaper for the group, only to find out that I didn't have to read it and that a 5page general summary would have been quite enough. The presentation of thegroup paper was a useful learning experience, thanks to our group leaderBarbro Klein and to the other group members. It did, however, take up a lotof time to try and sort out a subject to produce what I felt was a very roughdocument which would need an awful lot more work. This pressurisedenvironment also frittered away our discussion time.
I would have liked to have read more before I attended so that I could havebeen better prepared. This is probably something that is particular to me inthat I am not working primarily in folklore but in a related area, and thereforewas not as well up on the reading as I might have been. The FFSS made memore aware of the connections between disciplines, so that now, I'm afraid,conflicts of identities seem to pop up everywhere. Learning how to applyparticular theoretical concepts to disparate areas was a very valuableexperience. I'm not sure where my new perspectives are going to take me butI do know that I'm better off for having acquired them. I wish I could havealso attended the group on authenticity, since that has been another area ofinterest, for me.
On another matter, the performance of the Kalevala poem on the finalSaturday afternoon was very impressive, despite general exhaustion andburnout I felt it was a really strong and vital transformation of somethingwhich we had been led to think was moribund if not actually dead. I wish wehad heard this earlier in the programme because it certainly put the Kalevalain its proper context (at least for me).
The visit to Hattuvaara and to the festivities afterwards was highly enjoyablein retrospect, although many of us had misgivings about conducting field workin that situation. I think it might have been good to have more contact with thepeople on a more informal and less organised fashion. This would of courseentail holding the FFSS in a less isolated location, which may or may not bepractical. I know it has been held in cities before and I think holding theSchool in Mekrijarvi was an interesting step in the right direction, although itwas a little extreme. The saunas and the lake were wonderful.
I wish the FFSS continued success in the future and would welcome theopportunity of attending another in years to come.
Lillis O' Laoire,
Department of Languages, University of Limerick,
I am engaged in a research about some of these subjects, whose title is "TheFolktale: a Genetic Approach". When I was asked to do so, I sent a shortessay explaining the main topics of this research. As I said in that essay, thisproject was based on my Doctoral Thesis, where I studied the contextualchanges of standardized matrixes in a corpus of Argentinian folk narrativescollected in fielwork. Semiotics, Discourse Analysis and Genetic Criticismprovided me with the guidelines to this methodological proposal, focused onthe study of the genetic process of the folktale. I thus analyzed the constructiveprocess of the narratives, and I observed the transformations of the versionsin different contexts of an heterogeneous cultural area such as the ArgentinianRepublic. I am sure that many of the concepts I worked with are still unknownto many scolars. I could discuss some of them in a personal dialogue withother participants, but not in a collective discussion. Besides, I was put in the"Gender and power" group. As a matter of fact, sex and age of the narratorswere two of the variants I considered when I proposed my methodologicalapproach. In fact, I was really satisfied with my contact with professorNenola's group. This contact enabled me to think about theoreticalimplications of sex and power problems in the constructive process of folknarratives. But I still regret the lack of time for discussion, either in or out ofthe group. Lectures, conferences and video presentations - many of them,really very interesting - didn't allow us to focus our attention in other subjects.
It is worth saying that the FFSS staff was really excellent. Efficiency,cleverness and kindness were their main characteristics, and it is quite difficultto come across such combination. The Summer School offered all of us a goodopportunity to learn a lot about folklore studies in different countries. Thecourse organization was really wonderful. There was enough time to study, toattend the conferences and to do some fieldwork (and even to visit lovelyplaces). The most important for me was my contact with Finnish culture.
I suggest for future events more flexibility in the course programmes (bothconferences and group meetings) and the same efficiency and kindness in allother aspects.
Thank you, and best wishes!
University of Buenos Aires,
telefax: intl. 54 1 7884219
This year the participants of "Folklore Fellows' Summer School 1995" whichwas held in beautiful Mekrijarvi, were divided into five working groupsaccording to their interests. One of these groups was conducted by professorAnna-Leena Siikala and consisted of six researches: Xiaoping Dong fromChina, Lotten Gustafsson from Sweden, Baiba Meistere from Latvia,Pulikonda Subbachary from India, Ulo Valk from Estonia and ErmisLafazanovski from Macedonia. They presented a paper under the title "TheSt.Petru praasniekka in Hattuvaara: reading a performance", based upon theobservation and video documentation made during the festival of St. Peter.
The main purpose was to understand and read the different events of thefestival by six scholars from six different countries and with different religiousbackgrounds. Ulo Valk has investigated the Praasniekka-tradition and itsreligious background. As he mentioned at Hattuvaara, this festival has beenheld on June 29 which is the date dedicated to St. Peter and Paul according tothe orthodox calendar. Concerning the religious background he noted that theorthodox tradition is more close to the pre Christian religion of the BalticFinnic peoples, including the Karelians. Worship of the dead and the belief inthe possibilities of communication with them was a significant part of it. Inthis context an essential part of the ritual at Hattuvaara was dedicated to thedead members. Valk saw the procession with icons and holy flags from thechurch to the graveyard as a symbolic passage that unites two sacred spaces:Christian (chapel\church) and pre Christian (graveyard\holy grave).
Ermis Lafazanovski has seen this praasniekka as an enhancement of thebenevolence of St. Petru which gives an expression to an all-inclusive senseof community embracing descendants of the ancestral air, their wives andfamilies and including even those who have passed away. The singing andrituals done by the priest in order to create a contact with the past ones buildsa bridge between this and the other world, and the visible signs of the latterwere a small houses of the dead.
Pulikonda Subbachary analyzed the praasniekka as a performance. He cometo the conclusion that St. Petru festival has two main dimensions: ritualistic orreligious (events in the church and graveyards) and social (song performers,instrumental music and the game of sticks (kyykka), after the religiousceremony).
Lotten Gustafsson has seen the praasniekka rituals as joing the separate i.e.even if the praasnikka can be described as consisting of a religious and aprofane part, these two parts were not absolutely separated. The praasniekkathereby overcame another border and joined those who originally had the rolesof spectators with those of what they were looking. Also during the festivalareas that are usually separated and kept apart are joined. Such a reading couldalso be applied to the religious actions in the liturgical ceremony: people ofall ages - both men and women are taking part.
Xiaoping Dong has entitled her view as "selfportret with many faces" , whichmeans that this festival allows the crossing and overcoming of borders betweenwhat is normally separated thereby joining and creating a unity of differentaspects of human condition - it also displays a whole range of the differentidentities we share (and don't share). She noted that the day when bordersbetween groups and aspects of life are confirmed and overcome ends with agame between the men from the village and people who are professionalguardians of a border - the border separating Russia and Finland.
Baiba Meistere made some conclusions about poetics and rituals, talking aboutdifferent aspects of appearances as colorfully dressed people during theceremony of St. Peter, the concert, and the game. For her everybody wereinvolved in meaningful performance, having its stage, actors and audience.
Department of Macedonian Folklore,
University of Skopje, Macedonia