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Tuula Heiniä, from the series "Vodun-voodoo"

Grand-Popo is a small town on the Atlantic coast of Benin, in West Africa. The town consists mainly of one road that runs through a settlement of small houses, street kiosks, craftsmen’s workshops and restaurants. Roughly ten years ago, Finnish writer Juha Vakkuri fell in love with the town’s atmosphere, and established the Finnish-African cultural centre Villa Karo, in an old colonial villa. Over the past 10 years, Villa Karo has served as a residence for almost 300 Finnish artists, who have found different ways to collaborate with the local cultures and people, be it drum musicians or local textile artisans. Kunsthalle Helsinki now celebrates the anniversary with an extensive exhibition Good Morning Africa, exploring the impact of the residence and life in Benin on Finnish residency artists and their work.

The colourful exhibition features work by 50 artists: paintings, sculptures, installations, photographs, moving images, comics, design, applied art and architecture.

In addition, the exhibition presents the fruits of another cultural exchange: works by former architecture students of Aalto University. Between 2001-2006, groups of architecture students made field trips each year to Grand-Popo, and generated new ideas on how to improve the town’s conditions, in collaboration with local people and Villa Karo. Selected works from this program are presented in the studio room under the name Urban Dreams. The works deal with issues such as women’s situation, new housing and village typologies for craftsmen and fishermen, and eco-tourism.

The exhibition is open between 19 June – 11 August, 2010.

Women's mutual aid societies in Grand-Popo, from the student work by Hella Hernberg, Megumi Okubo and Annabella Parkatti. Aalto University (Helsinki University of Technology), 2004