Interview with Kati Hiekkapelto: nature, racist bullying and punk

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Interview with Kati Hiekkapelto: nature, racist bullying and punk

The crime writer and punk singer from Finland talks to Jo Lateu about rightwing populism, the importance of identity, and the natural world.


Kati Hiekkapelto ©

Who or what inspires you?

Nature: birds, plants, light, sea, wind and forests. Nature is me. I could not live without the Earth and the wild. I sometimes think that I am an animal. I love walking with no shoes, lying on the earth, swimming in the water, walking in the woods.

Also, good-hearted, wise people inspire me. I am lucky to have a profession where I can meet interesting and inspiring people and find people like me all around the world.

At university you wrote about racist bullying in Finnish schools. Is racism a problem in Finland?

Hate crimes, hate talk...hate is increasing all the time. It is a very big problem in Finland and everywhere. Extreme rightwing populism is changing the way people think. Many immigrants can’t get work, or apartments or education.

The government of Finland have decided that Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan are ‘safe countries’ and we can send refugees back there. It’s an easy solution, isn’t it? It shows how governments can use laws and rules for power and control. Like in Germany in the 1930s.

What problems do immigrant children face?

It’s very bad for immigrant children to lose their first language. They cannot learn another language well if they don’t have a strong first language. And if you don’t have good language skills, you will find it very difficult in education and work. This creates the problems that people say immigrants create: crime, too many people around the cities and other social problems. There are too many immigrant children in special education in elementary schools. We can see this as a way to help them, but also as a way to separate them and label them as different.

And there are many more problems, for example bullying and living between the pressures of home culture and the Western culture around them. Schools guide young girls to low-paid ‘female jobs’ – they don’t encourage them to study more.

Your novel, The Exiled has a hero, Anna Fekete, who is an outsider. She lives in Finland but she is from the Hungarian minority in Serbia. How important is identity?

That’s a big question. Identity and feeling that you belong are everything! Humans live together with others. People need family, friends, and to belong to a group to feel alive, to live happily. Why do we so often and so strongly want to stop this for some people or groups?

Who would you like to force to leave earth and why?

No one person, but maybe the whole human race. We damage ourselves, each other and our planet. I don’t think that the Earth needs us for anything.

You write and you are a punk singer. Do you use art to communicate a political message?

I don’t write to give a political message - I write because writing is my passion. I’m a storyteller. There’s a political message in my writing, but the reader can decide to see this or not.

But punk is different. Punk is my political instrument and also a way to have fun, do crazy things, be creative and to allow my angry and aggressive side to come out.

Most of my performances I do alone in nature. I like the idea of nobody watching or recording. It is happening in the moment, in peace and quiet.

The Exiled by Kati Hiekkapelto (Orenda Books) is out now.

NOW READ THE ORIGINAL: (This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have changed).