Untold stories — a project combining music and creative writing with archival research and historical scholarship to tell forgotten stories of the relationship between Finland and colonialism

Project Details


A comprehensive history on Finland and its relationship to European and American colonialism is yet to be written. There are vast areas of scholarship missing in both economic and political history, social and cultural history and intellectual history. The preconception of Finland as existing ”outside” the European and American colonial complex has been strong, also among historians.

Untold stories is joining those voices that are trying — piece by piece — to shed light on colonialism through focused studies. We want to engage actively with social movements and will use music and creative writing to tell stories that can reach a larger audience.
WP 1: Challenging patterned forms of ignorance: Studying stories of slavery in the press (1860-1930), and exoticism in Finnish music (1910-1930) in order to trace stereotypes, repetitive patterns and colonial thought in Finnish culture.
WP 2: Contextualizing exoticism over the national borders: Seeing phenomena like the literary group “Tulenkantajat” in the 1920s, or stories of slaves and slavery in the U.S. and the Kingdom of Dahomey in Finnish press in relation to global colonial cultures. WP 3: Using music to tell untold stories: Two concerts with lieder and art songs in order to reach a larger audience.
WP 4: Using creative writing to tell untold stories: Combining the actual life histories of Katie Stewart and Alice Ruffen, two African-American performers, who performed in Finland and other Nordic countries 1874-1897, with fictional elements in a creative writing process in order to challenge marginalisation and invisibility of black people.

Layman's description

The project is shedding light on stories of slavery in Finnish press (1860–1930), exoticism in Finnish music (1910-1930) in order to trace stereotypes and repetitive patterns of colonial thought in Finnish culture. We do this through creating concerts, creative writing, as well as archival research.
Short titleUntold Stories
Effective start/end date01/04/2130/06/24