Kultur natt means cultural night in Swedish.
Last year was a special year for me. It was the year I learned where I fit in the Småland cultural map (I found myself no where in this map unfortunately). The story begins with the invitation offered to all Kulturparken staff to attend the Kultur Natt to be held at he Kulturparken premises. The program was released in a booklet which showed the proceedings of the kultur natt activities and the events expected to take place that wonderful night. I was waiting with suspense to be part of that cultural gathering and looked forward to a night filled with fantastic cultural events. Then the long awaited night came. It fell on Saturday 29 January. "What a great fun!" I silently confided with myself. I left Braås, where I live now, much earlier than the time planned for the cultural night in order to be there well before activities have started. Maria, my nine-year old daughter has come with me too and we started at Cafe´Fountain and then proceeded to the Kulturparken.
Since the event was being staged at the heart of Smålands culturlal heritage-- Kulturparken-- I could not imagine how much pleased I was to be there and enjoy the cultural show. Upon arriving at the kulturparke I was astonished with the sight of many things especially the overall setting of the event and the artistic decorations that perfectly matched the shining glasses and the music. The cultural tree displayed in the show and the well dressed people with relaxed faces brightened by smiles have also added additional flavour to the fine tastes of the night.
After all kultur natt is a night of culture, night of parties and songs. It is the night of the nights which soothes the heart with the pleasure of belonging to a culture of your own. It is the night that connects the Present to the Past as one feels linked to the Future. I was as happy as anybody else that night with the exception that I did not see many immigrants around who were there to present their part of the cultural night celebration. I did not see any trace of my culture either or even an item i could identify as being an item of African origin and as result of that my mood was going down at a much faster pace than I could control. It is pity to be in a cultural night event and see nothing you can claim as a material culture despite taking part in a cultural event being held in a city inhabited by various communities with diverse cultural backgrounds.
Suddenly I began to ask myself "Where is my culture? Where are my music and traditional dances? Why can’t I see them here? My daughter couldn’t bear anymore with my mood swings and demanded to leave as soon as possible. Though i resisted for a while I finally yielded her plea and left. But soon as I stepped out of the door, joy greeted me instantly. I saw a lantern or kerosene lamp flickering at the entrance door of the kulturparken. It is an item I used to see in my village and for me it was like meeting a loved friend whom I have been missing for a long time. The lantern ( Feynuus in Somali) is common in all over Somalia and I think it is the first shining item I had set eye upon when I was born in a small hut 56 years ago.
The kultur natt has offered fascinating exhibitions, shows and cultural events inside the kulturparken but never have I felt as much excited as the moment I saw the lantern just outside the museum. I knelt down to greet it amid harsh snow winds which have been wafting across the pathway leading to the museum entrance door. I lifted it like a baby and surveyed its body like a mother just finished bathing her child, wrapping it with a towel while enjoying the jewel sparkle in the baby’s eyes. I brought it too close to my face and nearly kissed it had it not been my daughter Maria who has alerted me " Daddy, it is fire, don’t kiss it". Only then did I come back to my senses and returned the lantern to its rightful place. At least I was happy when I left the kulturparken because I have found an item that had sparked off pleasant memories to which I could reconnect. Holding a piece of a cultural item is no less important than reclaiming your national identity specially in a situation where we as Somalis have no national documents with which we can identify ourselves. In Sweden we are considered as people whose national identity cannot be established due to lack of documents issued by a recognized government though it is not our fault not to have a recognized government in Somalia. Therefore I decided to use the Lantern "Feynus" as my identity document until such time Somalia gets a proper government recognized by international community.
The kulturnatt of this year was more open and more fascinating than that of last year according to my assessment as an immigrant in Vaxjo. If I compare this year´s kultur natt to that of lat year, i can see a great difference in terms of participation and diversity of cultures. In Palladium, the kulturnatt event has been greatly celebrated and participated by people from all walks of life. I was invited by Studieframjandet to come to Palladium and read one or two poems. When I went there I was welcomed by Bobo at the door who led me to the stage and introduced me to the audience. As I was going to take part in another function at the kulgturparken, i read only one short poem on kulturnatt in which I portrayed kulturnatt is the night of inspiration and joy which brings all cultures together at a meeting point. At the stage I was followed by my daughter 10-year old Maria and 5-year old son Ahmed who assisted me how to properly stand in front of such a large audience who have filled the Bio to its capacity. At Palladium there was also a muscial show staged by both Africans and Swedish bands and at the Vaxjo library Johannes Anyuru, a Swedish Ugandan Poet, whom I met breifly at Palladium, has read some of his poems for a large audience who came to take part in the Kulturnatt event. If I sum up my observation of this year´s kulturnatt i can say it was more open and more diverse.
But one of the greatest kulturnatt events of this year took place at the uttvandrarnas hus where I and my family took part in a fashion and cultural show to observe the kulturnatt as well as the closing of Embrace exhibition. At 9:30 AM we appeared on stage one more time. We wore the Somali traditional cloths and walked while dancing to the music of Waving Flag sung by Kanán, the somali musical legend in Canada.