The Tales of Tar route expands to the surroundings of the Oulujoki river

The Tales of Tar route that can be experienced digitally on mobile devices around Oulu is getting three additional stories. The route is expanding along the Oulujoki river with events that took place in Muhos, Utajärvi and Vaalaa.

In November 2023, Oulu2026 published the cultural history Tales of Tar route, which consists of ten fascinating short stories. The stories are based on authentic locations, events and persons from the golden era of the tar trade in Oulu. The new stories transport the viewer to the area around the Oulujoki river and the events of the tar era. The stories are available in Finnish, English and Swedish. The stories in Finnish have been adapted to Easy Finnish and have been granted the SELKO symbol of the Finnish Centre for Easy Language.

The route map and locations of the story points are available at www.oulu2026.eu/en/northern-stories/. If you wish, you can also read the stories there.

“It’s great to be able to expand the Tales of Tar route to the Oulujoki river valley. The history of tar connects the entire northern region, and the subject involves many different stories, perspectives and fates. Hopefully, in the future, we will get to tell the story of tar even more extensively and to expand the route all the way to the tar production sites,” says Project Manager Anne-Maria Mäkelä from the Oulu2026 team.

The new additions to the Tales of Tar are The River Pilots of Oulujoki, Oulujoki Wharfs and From Lake Oulujärvi to Vaalankurkku. Previously published Oulu stories include Leveri, Snellman House, Seurahuone, Bergbom Warehouse, Hahtiperä, Linnansaari, Pikisaari, Merikoski, Frigate Toivo and Tervahovi.

The Tales of Tar route is designed to be permanent and is part of the Oulu2026 region’s journey to become the European Capital of Culture 2026.

The three additional stories have been realised by Rokua UNESCO Global Geopark/Humanpolis Oy as part of the project “Geoparks – attractive sustainable travel destinations”, which is funded by the European Union’s Regional Development Fund and the Finnish Government.

Photo: Finnish Agency of Heritage


More stories from the north coming soon

The Tales of Tar route is the first pilot in the Northern Stories project. The project is being implemented by Oulu Culture Foundation. The aim is to develop new ways of creating several themed routes with user-friendly mobile technology in the Oulu2026 European Capital of Culture area.

Highlighting the region’s cultural heritage and offering experiences free of charge strengthens the local identity of residents in their everyday environments and creates tourist attractions. The stories have been mapped with experts and local residents. The Tales of Tar route will be developed further on the basis of observations and feedback. The next story route, Sound of the North – tracing the origins of popular music, will be launched after Easter. The route traces the different eras of popular music, from Kuusrock to the 45 Special of today.

Further information and feedback

Northern Stories project, Project Manager Anne-Maria Mäkelä, anne.makela@oulu2026.eu, tel. +358 (0)40 673 5155

Implementer of the project: Oulu Culture Foundation, main financier: Council of Oulu Region

Project implementation period: 1 March 2023–30 April 2024

Solstice Festival 2024: Art program – Open Call

Solstice Festival invites artists to partake in a celebration of light and life in the mesmerizing landscapes of Rukatunturi. Solstice is a gathering for people who enjoy music, art and nature, preferably combined. It takes place during midsummer (20.-22.6.2024) in northern Finland near the Arctic Circle. The festival site, Rukatunturi, is an arctic fell which rises half a kilometer above sea level, providing an unique set of picturesque views over pine trees and lakes.

During this time of year, the northern location of the festival means that the sun never sets, crafting an unparalleled atmosphere – a celebration of light and life. Within this atmosphere the festival seeks installations embodying this year’s theme: “Luminescence: The Interplay of Light,”

The 2024 art program aims to create a space where art and the ceaseless daylight can merge in a meaningful dialogue. It is an opportunity for artists to explore the use of light, various materials, shapes and the vast natural spaces to accentuate their work, creating art that resonates with the constant luminescence of the Arctic summer.


  • Open to all artists, collectives, and creative units.
  • Submissions accepted in Finnish and English.

Submission Requirements

  • Proposals due by March 30th, 2024, 11:59 pm EET.
  • Email to art@solsticefestival.fi with a single PDF file (max

10 MB).

Support and Compensation

  • A €1,000 stipend for selected artists.
  • Material, installation and other basic costs covered from the production budget.

The selection will be made by a jury comprising esteemed Finnish art figures, basing their decision on engagement, originality, interpretation of the theme, creative use of sustainable materials, and the installation’s feasibility within the environment of Rukatunturi.

For more details and information, visit Solstice Festival Art Program.

For further inquiries, reach out to art@solsticefestival.fi

European Capital of Culture Oulu2026

On the road towards the year 2026, Solstice Festival is growing into an internationally significant music and art festival. The festival’s program consists of domestic and international music acts, DJs, and visual artists.

Solstice establishes an internationally significant cultural event in the region, bringing diverse culture, visibility, and visitors to the area. Solstice creates a new kind of togetherness at the edge of Europe, in the midst of nature, surrounded by high-quality art and culture. In 2026, the festival’s event area and program will expand significantly in honor of the European Capital of Culture year.

Artists for the first Sápmi Triennale announced

For the first few months of Oulu’s European Capital of Culture year 2026, the Oulu Art Museum will be transformed into a museum of Sámi art. Combining contemporary Sámi art and duodji, traditional Sámi handicrafts, Sápmi Triennale will be one of the main attractions. The selection of artists for the trienniale has now been announced.

An open call for artists and artworks for the first travelling exhibition of the Sápmi Triennale was launched in autumn 2023. A total of 97 applications were received, with around 500 submissions. The selection includes works by 25 artists: duodji handicrafts, dáiddaduodji art, video, sound and installation art, photography, painting, textiles, ceramics and literature.

The artists selected into the programme are Anna-Stina Svakko, Charlotte Nielsen, Christin Løkke, Eiril Linge, Elina Waage Mikalsen, Eva Kitok, Geir Tore Holm & Søssa Jørgensen, Gjert Rognli, Gunvor Guttorm, Hanne Grieg Hermansen, Hans Ragnar Mathisen, Helena Lagerqvist Kuoljok, Helmi Aletta Hagelin, Inga-Wiktoria Påve, Inger Blix Kvammen, Jorunn Løkvold, Kirsi Paltto, Katarina Spik Skum, Maarit Magga, Matti Aikio, Monica Edmundson, Odd Marakatt Sivertsen, Reetta Tornensis, Susanne Ewerlöf and Tilde-Ristin Kuoljok.

The selection of artists was made jointly by the three artists on the board of the Sámi Centre for Contemporary Art (Sámi Dáiddaguovddáš SDG), the director of the Kiruna Art Museum, Maria Lind, and the curator of the Rovaniemi Art Museum, Ulla Viitanen.

The Sápmi Triennale, which will tour Sámiland, Finland, Sweden and Norway, is organised by Sámi Dáiddaguovddáš SDG (Kaarasjoki), Nordlandsmuseet & Bodø2024, Konstmuseet i Norr (Kiruna) and Rovaniemi Art Museum in cooperation with Oulu Art Museum and the Oulu2026 European Capital of Culture. The triennial will open in August 2024 in Bodø, Norway, one of this year’s European Capitals of Culture. The triennial will arrive in Oulu in January 2026.

Art increases knowledge

The Museum of Sámi Art, which will take over the Oulu Art Museum in the winter of 2026, is an extensive community-based project of the Oulu Cultural Foundation and its partners within the larger Oulu2026 culture programme. Planning began in 2022, and implementation is based on dialogue and joint effort between the museum and the Sámi people.

“This is one example of what we call cultural climate change,” says Aino Valovirta, Sámi culture producer of Oulu2026. “On one hand, we want to bring Sámi people together to enjoy a diverse cultural offering, and on the other hand, we want to increase cultural literacy and awareness of Sámi culture among the general population. We hope that both the exhibitions at the Oulu Art Museum and the Sámi programming in general will have a lasting impact.”

The traditions and the culture of the only indigenous people in the European Union will be showcased in a wide range of public events and activities throughout the European Capital of Culture year, and work is already underway to promote the events to a wide range of audiences. The first Dálvemánnu events in January and February 2024, coordinated by Oulu2026, attracted approximately five hundred visitors. The programme featured for example a community evening at the art museum and a Sámi National Day seminar and concert.

For further information and interviews, please contact:

Curator Selina Väliheikki, Oulu Art Museum
selina.valiheikki@ouka.fi, +358 44 703 7456

Sámi culture producer Aino Valovirta, Oulu2026
aino.valovirta@oulu2026.eu, +358 40 509 1867

Oulu2026 is almost here!

Author Piia Rantala-Korhonen is CEO of the Oulu Culture Foundation responsible for organising Oulu2026.

The Oulu2026 Capital of Culture year is just two years away!

Based on previous Capital of Culture years, we know that the busiest years of preparation lie ahead.

In 2026, thousands of cultural events will take place in Oulu and 39 other municipalities, and we expect around two million visitors during the year. The events will bring new customers to companies and employ professionals from a wide range of industries. A successful Capital of Culture year will increase the vitality of the entire region.

Culture experienced together connects people and builds mutual trust. This social capital will help us face the challenges of the future – together, we can do anything!

Over 100 local, national and international top productions have already been selected for the culture programme. Due to the abundance of events, some of them will take place in surprising and interesting locations in addition to traditional cultural institutions. Most of the programme will be free of charge.

The programme will be supplemented with the Me olemme kulttuuria – We are culture programme search, which will open in autumn 2024. We welcome all local residents to join us in building the 2026 culture programme. We are cooperating with local companies, which benefits both the culture programme and the companies.

The programme work shifts into a new gear as the plans for large productions are refined and move into the production phase. Communications and marketing are gradually being expanded to cover the whole of Europe. We are cooperating with Finnish embassies and cultural institutes in Europe to gain broad visibility for the culture programme.

In 2024, we will already be getting a taste of what’s to come. Next summer, a new wall painting will be finished in Myllyoja, and the Oulu2026 stage will welcome future stars. In September, the Oulu region will offer affordable culinary experiences. November is the month of light, inspiring events across the entire Oulu2026 region.

We are all needed for a successful implementation in 2026! This year, we are launching a volunteer programme that offers everyone interesting ways to get involved in the implementation of the culture programme. Now is the time to look at your own home region with love, and to share with others the unique things you can see and experience here at the northern edge of Europe.

In February, the next President of the Republic of Finland will be elected. As soon as the results of the elections are announced, they will be sent an invitation to the Oulu2026 opening ceremony in January 2026.

Who are you going to invite to the opening ceremony?

New Festival in Oulu promotes Cultural Diversity

A new “African Cultural Festival” will be organized in Oulu this summer with the theme ‘The Colors of Africa’. The event is organized by Africans in Oulu community.

“This is one of the most important events for Africans living in Oulu region and it also promotes the diversity of Oulu’s culture scene”, says Ojuolape Akinwunmi, founder and CEO of the community.

Creating atmosphere of Togetherness

The idea for the festival was born from passion for diversity, inclusion, and desire to foster a sense of belonging for people of different backgrounds.

Ojuolape and Vanessa Phekani have established Oulu Women in Diaspora networking group, which is dedicated to serving women’s needs, supporting wellbeing and empowering women to reach their greatest potential.

The idea of the festival, which brings people together, strives for a safer space and atmosphere of inclusiveness, has emerged. The festival creates equal conditions for diverse cultures and cultural expressions to flourish and foster intercultural dialogue. Vanessa states that togetherness is the most important but also being able to bridge the cultural gaps.

“Now is the time to bring Oulu and Rotuaari back to life! We are looking forward to this festival, which offers everyone summer fun and the colors, flavors and sounds of Africa.”

Ojuolape is from Nigeria, she has been living in Oulu for six years. She is a software engineer, fashion entrepreneur and the Creative Director of Heybeautycollections. She is passionate about bringing diverse cultures of the African continent closer to people: “I love to talk about where I am from because I know how culturally rich this place is.”

Vanessa, the Executive Director of Africans in the Oulu community, is from Malawi. She has been living in Oulu for five years. She holds a bachelor’s degree in public administration and sociology, and a master’s degree in Education and Globalization from the University of Oulu.

Vanessa is the project Coordinator of ReGeneration 2030 youth movement, and also works as a Project officer for Oulu Reception Centre Association supporting integration of migrant and refugee women. She has a passion for raising awareness of cultural diversity.

Oulu is culturally diverse city

“We have still so much to do in terms of fostering cultural diversity and inclusion,” says Vanessa. She emphasizes the importance of mainstreaming ethnically, linguistically diverse cultural events in Oulu’s art and cultural life. There are a lot of events within various communities, but they are not visible within cultural services. We need to increase visibility of culturally diverse events in the municipal communication channels, to improve accessibility of communications and find ways to work with different communities. It is important to find gatekeepers in each of these communities and create networking forums to provide equal opportunities and enhance diversity and inclusion in the cultural field.

Vanessa states that the lack of representation has always been for her one of the biggest challenges since she moved to Oulu. “I think about my own children, how do they feel if there is nobody who looks like them in public places. If all your teachers are white it can be difficult to imagine that you would possibly be a teacher yourself in the future.”

Whose European Capital of Culture?

“Oulu is the European Capital of Culture 2026. Our event already shows that diverse culture is accepted and promoted in Oulu,” says Ojuolape.

She emphasizes that the African Cultural Festival and Africans in Oulu community are equally part of the European Capital of Culture. “Different communities have so much to offer to each other,” says Vanessa. She points out, that the best space for encounters and the celebration of the European Capital of Culture is where different cultural experiences interact in a mutually beneficial manner.

Ojuolape adds that objectives of European Capital of Culture regarding promotion of cultural diversity should be more visible. This could support inclusion, cultural rights, and ensure equal participation of migrants, especially non – European migrants, in Oulu2026 cultural programme.

“It is all about bridging the cultural gap and Cultural Climate Change! That’s why we want to encourage everyone to participate and create the Oulu2026 cultural program”, Vanessa says.

The African cultural festival will take place on the 15th – 16th July at Rotuaari. There are more than 20 vendors with food and craft stalls and entertaining musical performances in the area. On Saturday evening, there will also be a fashion show at Rotuaari where African styles will be presented. The festival culminates on Sunday with a concert by the Group Calabasse.

The whole family event is open to everyone and free.

More information is provided by
Ojuolape Akinwunmi

Vanessa Phekani

Equal Oulu2026 project fosters diversity and encourages everyone to participate in Oulu2026 implementation. Read more.