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.

Oulu powers up Lumo Light Festival to delight visitors with spectacular visual art despite energy crisis


In 2022, Lumo Light Festival brought light to Oulu for the tenth year.

There were 20 fascinating light installations on show in the city centre and Hupisaaret Park from November 18 to November 20, drawing an estimated one hundred thousand visitors.

Most people would probably agree that beautiful light art has the power to boost morale in the darkest time of the year in northern Finland.

But some have been wondering if it was a good idea to stage a light festival during a major energy crisis.

It may come as a surprise to many people that Lumo’s electricity costs were remarkably low.

“Last year we used 950 kWh of electricity over the three days of the festival which was a bit lower than the monthly consumption of a detached house that uses electricity as a source of heating,” says Jarkko Halunen, Head of Programme for Lumo.

“When people visit Lumo, they switch off the lights, the TV and other electrical appliances at home, thus saving energy.

“Therefore it’s possible that the city’s overall energy consumption was lower during the festival than it would have been without it,” Halunen argues.

At the time of writing this article, the exact figure for Lumo 2022’s electricity consumption was not yet available. But Halunen expected it to be roughly the same as it was in 2021.

“Come and Enjoy”

“Lumo is the brightest, lightest, happiest festival in Oulu,” says Anna Lanas, producer for Lumo Light Festival.

She says the organisers’ goal is simple: they want people to come and enjoy the installations.

“The mission will be the same in 2026 when Lumo will be a big part of Oulu2026’s cultural programme,” adds Halunen.

The organisers are understandably reluctant to reveal detailed plans but there’s already plenty of buzz about Lumo 2026.

“We’re working on some great plans. Lumo will be big and wonderful in 2026,” adds Lanas with a smile.

A feel-good festival that’s accessible to all

“The end of November is the hardest time of the year for many people. It’s dark and usually there’s not much snow yet. People are getting tired of spending too much time indoors and not having very much to do outside,” says Halunen.

One of Lumo’s artists couldn’t agree more.

“The end of November is so dark and dismal that the light and the spectacle of Lumo really enhances people’s lives,” says John Collingswood, a British artist based in Oulu who’s built an installation for seven Lumo festivals over the years.

“I think the best thing about Lumo is the sheer volume of people; the crowds who make an effort to come and see the installations,” Collingswood says.

According to Jarkko Halunen, the secret of Lumo’s popularity is  its accessibility.

“Lumo is for everybody. It’s a free event: people can come and go as they wish and they can pick and choose to experience parts of the festival that they like. It’s accessible to people from different backgrounds, children and elderly people alike,” Halunen explains.

Anna Lanas points out that in 2022 Lumo was even more significant than in it was in earlier years.

“At a time when there’s crisis after crisis in the world, with covid19 and a war in Europe, Lumo is needed more than ever.

Light art is fascinating. It can give great joy and happiness to people at a time when happiness is really needed.”


Oulu: the world’s tar capital

Today Oulu is internationally renowned as a high tech city: a major centre of competence and innovation in information and health technology.

Two hundred years ago Oulu had a very different reputation. It was known as the tar capital of the world.

“Whenever people ask me about Oulu, I always tell them that Oulu became a very wealthy city because of tar,” says Helena Petäistö, a well-respected journalist who’s spent half of her life reporting from France for Finnish TV channel MTV.

Born and raised in the Oulu region, she’s acquired a great knowledge of the history of the tar trade and she’s keen to raise public awareness of it.

What is tar?

Wood tar is an oil-like substance that was exported in large quantities from Oulu in the 19th century. It was used for waterproofing wooden sailing ships around the world.

Tar was produced by burning pine wood in villages along the Oulu river. It was put into barrels and transported to Oulu harbour in specially designed tar boats from where it was shipped to all over the world.

There was a strong demand for tar in the 19th century.

“The biggest fleets of the world, including Britain’s, France’s and America’s, were all covered by tar from Oulu,” says Helena Petäistö.

Thanks to the booming tar trade, Oulu became the world’s biggest tar exporting port with the largest fleet of merchant ships of any Finnish city in the 1860s.

“Tar trade on a big scale started in Oulu in the 1850s,” says Patrik Franzén whose job at the Northern Ostrobothnia Museum includes looking after tar-related projects.

“It reached a peak in 1865 when 80,000 barrels of tar were exported to other countries. Each barrel contained 125 litres of pure tar.”

Patrik Franzén says the tar trade was extremely important for the region’s economy. It provided jobs for a large number of people, lifting them out of poverty and saving families from starvation throughout the 19th century.

Tar and Oulu2026

Oulu 2026 will reflect on the importance of Oulu’s tar trade in a number of ways.

One of the flagship events in the cultural programme is a new opera entitled ‘The Rise of the Tar Kingdom”. Commissioned for Oulu2026, it will tell a mythical story about Oulu’s history.

The opera will be a unique piece of art that aims to reach new audiences by showing the wild side of the city. In addition to the opera, there are plans to run several workshops and exhibitions throughout 2026 to bring back memories of the tar trade.

“In 2026 we want to smell tar and we want to work with it. When you smell tar, old stories come to life,” suggests Patrik Franzén.

“We have plans for workshops on how to make tar, how to make a tar barrel and perhaps even build a tar boat. It will be wonderful. We want to make history living again.”

Oulu’s tar trade began to decline in the early 20th century after steel replaced wooden planks on sailing ships.

But Helena Petäistö says Oulu has maintained a special connection with tar.

”In Oulu we say coffee is black like tar. And in restaurants and cafes here you can try tar ice-cream. Believe it or not, it’s very good!”


Aalto Siilo: Farewell to Hoppers 24th September


September 24th, 2022

On September 24th, Factum Foundation in collaboration with Oulu2026 the European Capital of Culture 2026, will be organising a series of performances, projections and a concert in the iconic Silo by Alvar Aalto in Meri-Toppila. Freely open to the public and available on Facebook streaming ,‘FAREWELL TO THE HOPPERS’ is the first event of AaltoSiilo project produced by Factum Foundation as part of Oulu2026 culture programme.

The event will start with local DJs and audiovisual artists on the grounds surrounding the Silo, located in the Meri Toppila district of Oulu. The main show, offered by Finnish percussion group Transistori, will be performed inside the iconic building designed by architects Alvar and Aino Aalto. The audience will be able to experience Transistori’s performance through a LED screen installed outside the Silo.

Two industrial metal hoppers formerly used during the cellulose-making process will be dismantled and removed from site in 2023, as part of the restoration works undertaken by the Factum Foundation and Skene Catling de la Peña. A third one was already removed from the Silo during checks to the structural integrity of the building in the past years. The cavernous and peculiar sound of these metal hoppers caught the attention of Finnish percussion group Transistori, who specialises in instruments built from scrap and recycled materials. The performance will highlight and explore the industrial past of the Toppila Pulp Mill Silo and its rebirth after restoration.

The group, composed of six musicians and two sound engineers, all originally from Oulu, will use the hoppers and funnels as percussion instruments during the performance, remixing and enhancing their sound using electronic beats, synthesizers and drum machines. The interior of the Silo will act as a resonating chamber, transforming the building into an urban-sized musical instrument.

The Silo, designed to store wood chips for cellulose production and located in the Meri Toppila area of Oulu, is currently undergoing restoration. The not-for-profit Factum Foundation and the award-winning architectural practice Skene Catling de la Peña, who acquired the Silo in 2020, aim to repurpose it as a multi-purpose centre for the digital preservation of industrial heritage in the North.

Event timetable and lineup, Sep 24th, 2022

4-7 pm DJ sets by Crash Doom, Miha, Otilia
7-8 pm Audiovisual performances by Ohmudog
8-9 pm Transistori

Event site: AALTOSIILO, Alvar Aallon katu, 5
90520 Oulu, Northern Ostrobothnia, Finland.

Facebook event

Watch live from Twitch 24th Sep, 16:00 


  • Performers: Jukkis Määttä, Jaakko Jokipii, Pekka Heinonen, Lauri Sallamo, Aki Latvamäki, Jaakko Niemelä
  • Sound tech: Mikko Pohjola, Lauri Sukanen


Heikki Myllylahti, Producer heikki.myllylahti@oulu2026.eu

Factum Foundation: Valentino Tignanelli – valti.tigna@factum-arte.com


The Factum Foundation for Digital Technology in Preservation is a not-for-profit organisation founded in 2009 in Madrid by Adam Lowe. It works alongside its sister company, Factum Arte, a multi-disciplinary workshop in Madrid dedicated to digital mediation and physical transformation in contemporary art and the production of facsimiles. The Foundation was established to demonstrate the importance of documenting, monitoring, studying, recreating and disseminating the world’s cultural heritage through the rigorous development of high-resolution recording and rematerialisation techniques. The Foundation’s activities include building digital archives for preservation and further study, creating and organising touring exhibitions, setting up training centres for locals to master the different technologies developed by the Foundation in order to record their own cultural heritage, and producing exact facsimiles as part of a new approach to conservation and restoration. Their work spans all continents, with many projects throughout Europe, Africa and the Americas. They are now beginning a many-faceted project on the impact of environmental change on cultural heritage in and around the arctic circle.


Skene Catling de la Peña is an architecture practice based in London and Madrid, founded in 2003 by Charlotte Skene Catling. She has developed a unique approach she calls ‘Geoarcheology’, which seeks to excavate meaning from context as a means of developing architecture, by transforming observations about the composition of the earth, historical artefacts and the cultural landscapes of their commissions. Skene Catling de la Peña are experienced in the design and integration of contemporary projects into listed buildings and sensitive historic contexts. Recent work includes the AALTOSIILO, a pioneering project focused on re-use and renewal through Alvar Aalto’s first industrial building at the edge of the arctic circle in Finland. Their Flint House for Jacob Rothschild was extruded from the Buckinghamshire landscape in strata of flint and chalk (RIBA ‘House of the Year’ 2015). Their work on Fidelio, a sitespecific Opera at the Perm World Heritage Site, Russia, was awarded the Perm Prize for Arts and Culture. They regularly collaborate with Factum Foundation and together have recently completed the permanent installation, In Ictu Oculi – In the Blink of an Eye, at The Spanish Gallery, Bishop Auckland. Skene Catling has written about architecture in The Burlington Magazine, The Architectural Review and ARCH+, and DOMUS magazine. She launched the architectural film festival, ArchFilmFest, in London in 2017, ran a post-graduate architecture unit at the RCA for five years and taught architecture at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). Skene Catling de la Peña has won many awards for its approach and has been extensively published internationally.


The Finnish city of Oulu is the 2026 European Capital of Culture. Our mission, Cultural Climate Change brings together culture, art, and technology in exciting and sometimes unexpected ways to create new encounters between people, and to help us reconnect with each other. Oulu will be the center stage for European culture in 2026 with a diverse, engaging culture programme.
The AaltoSiilo project is part of Creative Village programme line that aims to reshape the city and its cultural climate by adding places for creativity in the urban space. The project is part of wider programme theme Wild City.
Read more about our culture programme.

Webinar 6th Sep: How to apply to Open Call 2022

Image of Open call 2022: Oulu2026 culture programme. 3rd october to 9th December at www.oulu2026.eu/en/opencall

The Oulu2026 organisation is offering an unmissable opportunity in autumn 2022 for partners to become part of the capital of culture programme. The autumn 2022 Open Call is specifically aimed at large-scale projects that take several years to prepare or carry out. The call for applications for individual, communal projects will be announced closer to 2026.

Join the upcoming webinar on 6th September at 2pm, where our team will introduce the diverse culture programme and the main themes, how to participate to the Open Call and what are key steps towards October 3rd, the official launch of the Open Call. We will also share general information about Oulu and our northern region. The webinar will be held in English and during the one hour session, you will learn e.g. what we mean by large-scale productions, what are our three main programme themes, how the funding and overall application process work.

The Open Call will be officially launched on 3rd October, and you have time to submit your application until 9th December. The official application criteria will be available on September 1st on our website.

The webinar will be also held in Finnish at 13:00 local Helsinki time. The recorded webinars will be released on our website and our Oulu2026 Youtube channel. Before joining the the webinar, you can take a look at Frequently Asked Questions. 

Register to 6th Sep webinar in English 2pm (EEST)

Register to 6th Sep webinar in Finnish 1:00 pm (local Finnish time) 

Read more:

The Finnish city of Oulu, European Capital of Culture 2026, announces an Open Call for cultural programme partners

13th June first info-webinar recording (youtube)


Email us at opencall@oulu2026.eu