Hamsun festival in Hamarøy 2004.
The sun is shining
over and over again,
Yes, it certainly did during this year's Hamsun festival in Hamarøy! Northern Norway just had Europe's best summer weather during the Hamsun days. If you already have experienced the eternal day of a northern summer, you will know what spell one will be under in Hamsun country during the best Hamsun festival together with other local and visiting Hamsun connoisseurs. It could be difficult to chose between the sunshine 23 hours per day and the innumerable events we were offered during the days from 30. July to 08. August.
The traditional opening
ceremony took place as usual in front of Hamsun's farm
Skogheim. Asbjørn Hopland from the organizing committee
bid welcome to close to 300 people, who filled the area
between Skogheim and the town hall. The new mayor of
Hamarøy Jan-Folke Sandnes bid welcome with words from
the old Norse saga Havamal and spoke optimistically of
the challenges of the future seen in the perspective of
the long tradition of settlement in Hamarøy and the well
functioning cooperation between town and country and he
had on the occasion himself composed a welcome poem,
which is reprinted in the official programs. There were
also greetings from the county and from the Norwegian
government brought by fylkeskulturchef Stig Olsen
(responsible for culture in the county of Nordland) and
by statssekretær Arnfinn Ellingsen (secretary of state),
who both stressed the importance the Hamsun festival in
Hamarøy has not only locally but also nationwide and the
goodwill that Norway gets abroad due to Hamsun. In that
context it was especially positive to hear the support
expressed for the coming national Hamsun centre in
Hamarøy, where the start of construction is approaching.
This year's programme was, if not dominated, then carried by strong and competent women. The Hamsun Society literary seminar was titled "Hamsun's women", gifted artists like Regine Hamsun (Knut Hamsun's grandchild) and Ingun Dahlin exhibited their art and not least, the concerts had exciting female leading characters.
One of the best concerts was the opening concert "Barokk i sommertid" (baroque in summertime), which also this year took place in the completely filled Hamarøy church. Erica Toths 10 musicians and the superb soprano Catherine Bott performed baroque music, like we seldom hear it: 1.violinist Erica Toth knew exactly what she wanted and gave us music that sounded (according to newer research) like at the time it was written: direct, aggressive, somewhat "coarse". Moreover the musicians had chosen to play composers that we don't hear every day, but who had qualities above the "evergreens" that we always have to hear. The music was elegantly and charmingly spun together by Erica Toth, who between the pieces told facts and anecdotes about the époque, the composers and the music. For those of us, who heard Erica Toth during the last Hamsun days with Arctimus, it brought back good memories. But that was not all - after two concerts a.o. in the cathedral of Trondheim, Nidarosdomen, Arctimus came back as a trio and gave a poetry/music programme "Samtaler med gress i Hamsuns rike" (conversations with grass in Hamsun land), where Eivor Bergum read her poems alternating with music from Edvard Grieg over Sjostakovitj to Arne Nordheim. Also extremely well done! Evocative also because the programme took place in the stable of the old vicarage among Regine Hamsuns very sensual paintings.
Don't stop reading here: I will just briefly mention what happened more. It is really impressive what the Hamsun festival offers during these fantastic 10 days: For lovers of soul and R&B the main event was the concert with soulqueen Noora and band in the Flour Store - really an exciting concert "hall". Gro Siri Ognøy and band played Hamsun poems to own music in the Hamsun gallery and in Hamarøy church (we actually sat in the church, but due to the heat - summer in northern Norway - we felt as though we sat one storey deeper), we heard ballads at the Minuten Café with Tore Hestbraaten, Jack Berntsen and band, Karoline Krüger, rock concert with Panzer, folkrock from Latvia with Ilgi, Lithuania's most popular jazzband Pulauskas, midnight concert at the lighthouse, for kids the show "To be or not tuba", Jam, local rockbands in the swimmingpool, popular arias with operasingers from Opera Nordpå in the pub at the camping site, 12 rusty strings with 2 rusty gentlemen Paus and Fjeld, not to mention Hellbillies, who played in natures finest open-air stage at the tidal stream Ness straumen. Yes, there really was something for everybody with an open ear for music.
The second impressive concert event was, according to my travel companion, the first performance of the commissioned work to the Hamsun festival. The festival has established a tradition for extravagant concert venues: last year we sat on the mountain Hamarøyskaftet, this year in a quarry! Imagine a path, where people from flat Denmark never would have dared to drive in their own car. Here we drove up in a bus at 11pm, had the opportunity to enjoy the view 900 meters down to the sea with the sun setting before we seated ourselves on rocks and boulders in the quarry. The composition itself was based on jazz and fusion but with classical floating passages interrupted by changes in tempi reminding both of Richard Strauss and of folkloristic themes. A grand and inspiring piece of music excellently performed by the composer Jan Gunnar Hoff and his musicians! And as an encore when the concert was over the moon rose and reflected in the water far down until the bus set us off again in the town centre at 2:30am and the sun started glowing in the eastern horizon. Really an unforgettable experience!
The art exhibitions had as usual a very high standard:
Regine Hamsun had chosen to exhibit her paintings in the stables of the old vicarage, a place that contrasted well with her light strokes and with an interesting placing of the paintings, so that one could walk amidst the paintings like in a forest or under water between seaweeds. I was delighted, that she sold so well.
Ingun Dahlin exhibited her warm and
strong women in the open-air museum. Her sculptures are
really female ideals of today, 2004: Strong, beautiful
and independent but at the same time sensitive and
many-sided. And that appealed to the visitors! I'm so
pleased that precisely this female type is popular - at
least in Scandinavia - and not the old-fashioned
´housewife´ type. The future is bright! Ingun really
deserved the many visitors and the excellent sales.
It is amazing how well the old whitewashed stables in the open-air museum match modern art. Next to Ingun Dahlin the group BLÅST exhibited their glass in modern Scandinavian design.
Another of our favourites, local Hugo Aasjord, exhibited above in the barn. Especially his sculpture "Sarg" was exiting, here we came several times, had lots of associations leading to much (at least in our own opinion) profundity. But also his pictorial art was exiting and challenging. Here interpretation is called for. I do hope to see his works soon again, luckily he is also known internationally.
From Norwegian to international artists:
The German Hermann Naumann presented his illustrations to
Hamsun's novels. At the same time as in Hamarøy Naumann
also exhibited in St.Petersburg, but Naumann had said,
that the best present for his 70th years birthday was to
be able to exhibit in Hamsun's Hamarøy and even in the
same building as Hamsun's grandchild Regine Hamsun. In
East Germany Naumann's illustrations substantiated
Hamsun's popularity and several beautiful books with
Naumann's illustrations were published, but after the
reunification of Germany there is no money available here
for art from the eastern part of Germany. Really a pity
what we here miss!
Also the other artists were well worth visiting: Borgny F. Svalastog, Marianne Lien, Hanne Borchgrevink, Tore Hansen, Christine Istad and Aino Hivand, who exhibited in the open-air museum and in Hamsun's farm Skogheim. Especially interesting were also the photographers Hege Larsen, Lene Imbsen and Beatrice Tufvesson who exhibited in the Minutten café. A fresh, beautiful and unusual series of nobly framed photographs demonstrating the good education, profound technical knowledge and fresh seeing eyes. We wish the group all the best in their new studio in Sagene in Oslo, where they take on commercial assignments as well as develop their ambitions in art. Also thanks for the cosy vernissage. You may contact the group by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com .
Also the private art galleries had
prepared themselves for the Hamsun days: The Hamsun
gallery - in the old shop where Hamsun had worked -
unfortunately doesn't have Karl Erik Harr's Hamsun
illustrations any more, but has luckily found other
exiting artists that fit into the historic building. The
owner, Stein Thorbergsen, has been awarded the St. Olav
Rose for his fine renovation of the building. It is well
deserved - congratulations!
New at the Hamsun festival are the films. In collaboration with the Norwegian Film Institute the festival showed films based on Hamsun's novels as well as documentaries on Hamsun. Curiosities of film historical interest only as well as high quality works. Jan Erik Holst from the film institute told about the making of the films, their disapperance and recovery, accidents and tedious archive research. And he told about the difficulties in "translating" Hamsun's books to film (same applies apparently to the staging of Hamsun's plays). Holst also announced the showing of "Growth of the Soil" in Oslo in March 2005 with the original film music recently discovered in the archives of the national library. Many people visited this fine series of films in the barn of the old vicarage and expressed their hope, that the Hamsun festival will repeat this initiative in two years during the next Hamsun days in Hamarøy.
What else? Well, Hamarøy Theatregroup
arranged adven-tours with literary elements, the path
from Hamsund and Hamsuns childhood home to the church was
re-opened with guiding and recitals, there were market
days in several places in Hamarøy, there were travels in
Hamsun's literary footpaths, holy service in the garden
at Hamsuns home, hikes and guided mountaineering to
summits in Hamarøy, story-teller café, a seminar on
tourism, marketing and promotion of labels for business
people and politicians, dance on the piers in several
harbours in Hamarøy, popular entertainment, regatta,
animation workshop for kids, presentation of a model of
the old Hamarøy church, sing-along evenings and - not to
forget: The traditional exhibition by amateur artists in
the school. It is such a pleasure to see how much
creativity people posses, when they spend time with
Another beautiful experience is - my travel companion tells me, while I listen to serious lectures at the literary seminar - a trip with the old sailing ship Goxsheim out under the Tilthornet and out on the Vestfjorden and there enjoy the silence on the sea and the view towards the Lofoten or towards Norway's most famous mountain Stetind, looking out for porpoise, enjoying homemade waffles just chatting with Siv and the incredible pleasant and congenial owners of Goxsheim Charles and Natasha and cuddle with Lenin (the ship's cat - he is also red!). Wouldn't you just like to go fishing, whale watching, sailing with them or do you just want to enjoy the extremely well renovated and well furnished (sauna incl.!) ship, that Charles has had rebuild almost from the hull, then start by visiting them at: Aurora Borealis .
And then the most important day approached: 4. August, Knut Hamsun's birthday.
Again it is hot. More and more activities
are starting. In collaboration with the lulesami centre
in Arran a conference on reconciliation was held
conducted by Rolf Steffensen and the author John
Gustavsen. President of the Sameting (sami counsil)
Sven-Roald Nystø and manager of Riddu Riddu festivalen
(important ethnic cultural festival) Lene Hansen showed,
based both on Hamsun's novels and on the existing
political situation, the relations between the sami and
the "south" Norwegian population in northern
Norway. Civil rights leader Dr. Mike Adams from South
Africa shared with us his experiences in the struggle for
truth and reconciliation in South Africa. This conference
is a superb initiative and of sadly current interest: All
around the world the chasm between human beings and
ethnic or social groups has grow larger due to
uninhibited economical interests.
From reconciliation to the annual general assembly in the Hamsun Society. Here the executive committee was elected, Even Arntzen was re-elected chairman and I was put in the election committee. The executive committee will constitute itself, and as soon as this has happened it will be reported here.
And then to the traditional garland of
Hamsun's bust at his childhood home. Even Arntzen held a
grand and personal speech and laid down a laurel wreath,
in the most beautiful summer weather and with lots of
people standing and sitting all around it became an
emotional experience. You can find the speech here: birthday speech
(Norwegian language only).
behandles som en kvinde. Skal man ikke være galant mot
livet og la hende vinde på sig? Man skal gi sig og gi
sig og la alle skatter ligge." (Rosa)
THE HAMSUN SOCIETY LITERARY SEMINAR:
"Hamsuns kvinner" (Hamsun's women) was the
title of this years seminar, to participate here is for
me every time the absolute highlight.
Another fine day started at 9.15am with
Ellen Mortensen from Bergen, the weather is incredibly
hot, but we were fit and keen to listen to "Edvardas
lunefulde begær" (Edvardas capricious desires) fine
and put to the point - yes, Hamsun's female characters
are extremely interesting.
The weather has now changed a little,
clouds are approaching but it is still hot.
What happened then? Well, I have not quite comprehended it yet: I was awarded the Hamsun Society bursary of 30.000 Nkr. for my work and my readiness to help. What a feeling. I have never dreamed something like this happening to me.
Outside it was raining cats and dogs. It
was thundering on the roof.
A bus was now waiting to take us to Tranøy for a guided tour, however I was still so overwhelmed from having received the stipend, that I went to Tranøy with my travel companion. The rain had stopped and a friendly sun was looked down at us. Coffee, chocolate cake and relaxing at Kirsti Kalstad's in Tranøy gallery was exactly what we needed, then a walk at the harbour and the view towards the mountains of the Lofoten, that helped and slowly I came back to myself and my surroundings. The literary seminar ended with an invitation to a meeting between 5 Italian and 2 Norwegian authors and the audience. The topics were Female identity and Nature as a source of inspiration in arts. The meeting was arranged in a co-operation between the Norwegian Foreign Ministry and the Italian Casa delle Letterature, also taking place in Tranøy, a fine and splendid idea. I must admit we did not participate: We were to tired after the intense experiences.
It was so sad to have to return home
after all these wonderful experiences and especially the
fellowship with all the open and dedicated people. The
next 2 years will seem long before the next Hamsun
festival is due!
|© Kirsten Hedvig Rasmussen||www.hamsun.at|