How does the Swedish nature appear to someone who has recently arrived to Sweden? What does it mean to be rooted to a place? The forest might be associated with a sense of freedom and dreaming, a space upon which children project their magic thinking. At the same time, the forest might appear unfamiliar or even scary for someone else.
Well-conceived strategies are being implemented to integrate newcomers into Swedish Society by focusing on a range of programs that target social and cultural aspects and make newcomers ready to join the Swedish Labour market. These strategies are almost entirely directed towards the integration within the urban environment, and rarely with the natural environment, despite the significant role nature has within Swedish every-day life.
With these points of departure, Alnaji och Montti Colque laid the foundation for a series of workshops allowing the participants to create new relationships with nature, inviting newly arrived teenagers as well as youth born in Sweden to join.
During the excursions to Kärsön island in the outskirts of Stockholm, art experiments and discussions caused a lot of emotions. Life stories were exchanged while strolling through the forest, gathering ideas and materials for artworks and learning about the Swedish nature and the right to roam, the principle, protected by the Swedish law, that gives all people the right to roam free in nature.
The art-making workshop started already in the forest. There were imaginative positive romantic pictures, despite all the adversities some of the participants undergo. "I have received a refusal from the Swedish Migration Board. It is very difficult ... but I will continue my life here ...", said one of the participants, while another conclude that "painting is a good way of not thinking about the asylum process. I'm very happy to participate."
One of the young participants, told the group about a bird often found in Afghanistan, the chukar partridge, a relative to the pheasant birds. He painted it above mountains and a sea of sharks. It says on Wikipedia: "They are sociable but alert and will most likely run away when they are disturbed. The flight is low with fast wings and steep sliding." For workshop facilitator Alicia Olivas, with this description in mind the chukar partridge became a symbol for the unaccompanied young refugees she has met. “I have met many who have struggled and still do. They have a lot of warmth and humanity, while at the same time there is something in their eyes that differs from Swedish youth, the vigilance that allowed them to survive their journey here and the sorrow of losing everything.”
The group gathered their impressions and materials from nature, and met again at the Färgfabriken art space for art making workshops with the artist Valeria Montti Colque and artist/architect Hala Alnaji. The results were then added to the exhibition Shared History, integrated with the room installation made as a collaboration beween Alnaji and Montti Colque.
Forest excursion, connecting with nature
Finding a place to rest
Getting to know the forest
Artist at work