“Man killed for N20”, “Afrikassa kävely ei ole valkoisen hommaa”. This is written in the poster. Niina Turtola’s Ministry of Truth and Typography has landed on the Stanford University campus.Niina Turtola is a Finnish born graphic designer, artist and phd student working in the margin. She is using graphic design for her artist process that discusses the violence and corruption in Namibian society and on the other hand maybe conspicuous consumption and well-being in the Finnish society. Signposting these phenomena isn’t safe in the Namibian society and keeping the mirror in front of Finnish society is sure to cause reaction.
Niina Turtola is working on the interface of two cultures. She is a Finnish white woman in Namibia and on the other hand she is expatriate that is looking at Finland through the analytical expat classes and knowledge that makes you take two steps back when you are looking at your “homeland”. Her position becomes marginal to each direction.
Her posters made me think about fear and the marginalizing effect of it. Us Finns take safety as guaranteed. When I’m jogging alone in the dark Arctic nights of Rovaniemi, I’m only encountering reindeer or a fellow dog walker. There is nothing to fear for. Of course, time to time even in our safe heaven, something happens and more towards the south you go more often this happens. Yet, when you live in Namibia, it is sure that something happens, especially if you don’t have the experience and ability to read the people and the cityscape. And there what happens may take your life.
If I think about my history in Namibia, however short with stays of months, half a year, weeks time to time, I have experienced burglars coming in, shooting, theft, people coming into the car, shaking of followers while walking and all these with my son. I learned to live with alarm system, panic buttons, fences, barbed wire. First experiences were paralyzing. I was terrified for some nights and I wondered how people can face this from day to day. But I also listened and tried to learn how to read the cityscape and people and how to look after my bags, keys, money, credit card, children, car doors and how to be aware. I also learned that you don’t always get help from the officials or the police. They just don’t come.
In Lapland, I don’t need to be aware and not so much even in Helsinki. It’s very rare in Helsinki that someone would kill you for two euros which on the other hand is not so rare in Windhoek. At least, while I was living there for some years it was pretty safe to move about even in the dark.
Niina Turtola’s posters make me think about “fear”, “being afraid” for you body and life. The feeling when you are not safe and you have to take extra measures every day and use your senses to grasp if it’s safe or not. This marginalizes you if anything. And, when you think about it, you don’t have to go so far, to dark nights of Windhoek or Helsinki. Sometimes this paralyzing fear is present in our relationships. So many women encounter domestic violence in each country. Than you don’t even have anywhere to go.
By Satu Miettinen