The Sippu Spring, Kouvola, Sippola, 2010

The Sippu Spring was restored in association with the villagers of Sippola in SE Finland. It was my wish that this spring would again serve as a centre for the villagers, as it had been as a so-called church spring, where churchgoers stopped to drink water and wash their feet before going into the church. Sippola is in the former Province of Viipuri, most of which was ceded to the Soviet Union after World War II, and the stories of a lost land, childhood landscape, and Karelia with its cuckoos and stands of birches are familiar to most people there. Present-day Sippola is also the unique and personal childhood setting of its inhabitants, of which they will certainly reminisce in their old age. Do we understand the meaning and value places and spaces only after they have been lost for one reason or another? Could it be so that everyday things become valuable only when they no longer exist?

Many of the residents of Sippola ask and wonder where all the things of the past have gone, and where progress is now leading us. Why are schools being closed? And why is the village road so quiet? What happened to the strawberry ice cream of childhood and the gravel road that prickled one’s bare feet? Although we think in our own language, we dare not answer the questions that we pose to ourselves. The homeland of language and mind is precisely in such landscapes, associations and springs that should be kept clear to stop questions remaining to be solved by those who come after us. Local history and understanding it as part private identity can promote a commitment to the environment and to taking care of it. It is also evident in our attitude to other people – and why not also to nature and animals. Our time is right now. We exist and live –  now.

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