When Kullervo met Araweelo

we could learn more about Nordic-Somali poetry, literature and storytelling

It was more than ten years ago when I had my first, unexpected contact with Somalian storytelling. I was working as a museum guide at Ateneum, Finnish National Art Gallery, and my task was to focus on the art related to Kalevala, which has the position as the Finnish national epos. Young pupils that had arrived to Finland from Somalia less than three years ago listened to the story of Kullervo, an unfortunate character, who cannot avoid causing destruction and pain whatever he tries to do, and finally ends up killing himself after accidentally sleeping with his sister. We looked at Akseli Gallen-Kallela’s painting Kullervon kirous (Kullervo’s curse) which depicts a furious teenage boy lifting his fist towards the sky, while a dog sniffs a half loaf of bread in his feet. According to the story, inside the bread there is a stone, and if you know this, you can distinguish it in the painting.
“These stories used to be sung,” I explained in a school visit related to the same program. “That was the way to remember them before they were written down. You can sing all the lines of this book,” I continued and sang some verses from a randomly opened Kalevala-book with a monotonous melody.
“Really?” asked one of the pupils looking at me incredulous. He wanted to open the book himself.
“Can you sing this one as well?” he continued.
“Yes. Anyone can, it´s very simple, just a few notes. You can try.” I answered and followed the lines with my finger while I sang.
“We have these stories too!” he said then.

After that he told me about a female queen who castrated all the men in her reign and about a girl who succeeded to escape her monstrous mother. The cannibal mother’s name was Dhegdheer and the queen was Araweelo. His Somalian-born classmates contributed to the story with details and started to argue about the correct version of the plot. I was fascinated by the enthusiasm and ability of these children to communicate their stories to me with their still very fresh Finnish language.

…through the stories and paintings related to this epos, we could form a bridge that connected two very distant worlds of stories.

To be honest, I had never been really a fan of Kalevala, even though in my job as a guide I told the stories with an enthusiasm that I wanted to offer for the museum visitors. The process of constructing the Finnish national identity has elements that make me feel uncomfortable. But now I truly found it interesting; through the stories and paintings related to this epos, we could form a bridge that connected two very distant worlds of stories. For this group, what impacted them most was the story of Kullervo, and the fact that all the stories could be sung.

The Nordic countries, especially Sweden, have become important areas of publishing literature in Somali language.

I guess that a similar feeling of touching a rich but invisible world, has happened to many people who have worked with initiatives related to Somalian storytelling and poetry in the Nordic countries and elsewhere in the Somali diaspora. Several literary scholars (eg. Ahmed Artan Hanghe, Bogumił W. Andrzejewski, Giorgi L. Kapchits) have written about the varied genres, their specific metrics, contents, performative contexts and other elements of Somalian poetry, storytelling and literature. Many collections of Somalian folktales have been done and are also available in English and/or in Nordic languages. Projects related to literary and/or Somali mother language education have created formats to continue, adapt and renew the Somalian storytelling traditions. Some of them have collected texts that have been published as books or online. Somali book fairs have been yearly traditions at least in Finland, Sweden, Canada and Britain apart of Hargeisa, and their close connection to worldwide distribution channels of Somali language literature shows interesting features of a unique, transnational literary field. The Nordic countries, especially Sweden, have become important areas of publishing literature in Somali language. The Swedish support system of literature has also permitted a rather wide publication activity of children’s books. Even easy-reading books and a children’s journal in Somali language are published in Sweden.

In the picture you see artwork as part of Storytelling courses in Somali language by Outi Korhonen
Storytelling courses in Somali language at Espoo libraries in 2011, part of the project Queen Araweelo’s bathing pond (Kuningatar Araweelon kylpylammikko). Teacher: Amiira Ismail. Photo: Outi Korhonen

It is not a field of roses. Many of the initiatives related to Somali language receive aggressive reactions from racist and xenophobic groups.

In many cases there has been a fertile dialogue between the expertise of Nordic Somali inhabitants and the literary, cultural or educational elements of the receiving country. These are echoes of the work that the diasporic Somali communities have done to develop and cultivate their literary tradition, both inside the Somali-speaking language community and in dialogue with the other inhabitants of the new home countries.

It is not a field of roses. Many of the initiatives related to Somali language receive aggressive reactions from racist and xenophobic groups.[1]

As the written Somali language is so young, established as late as in 1972, the oral forms of poetry have had an important role in preserving and forming the stories and their aesthetics. Maybe this was the reason why singing some verses of Kalevala attracted the pupils who first told me Somalian stories. Before having the written versions of poetry and literature, the relation between the author and the reader has been different, and I wonder whether something of that is still left in Somalian literary context. I refer to the collective nature of creation.

Professionalism is often understood as a synonym of good quality.

I may be wrong, but during the years I worked with art, culture politics and diversity, I had the feeling that from the lenses of the Finnish art field, there are difficulties in recognizing and appreciating collective forms of art creation. It is considered something less worthy. Our culture demands first of all professionalism—professional artists who do art as their profession and can prove that. Professionalism is often understood as a synonym of good quality. But when art is strongly rooted in the life of a community, the question of professionalism becomes complicated. Then, the question of quality is not a question of professionalism—these two words are not synonyms anymore. The question that should be asked is different, but I do not know what it should be. How does art contribute to the meaning of people’s lives? What do people do with art, what kind of importance does it have? What is quality?

What if the roles of the creator, performer, commentator, curator and audience would be different? Maybe the development towards more and more specific roles and expertise has also elements of loss and alienation. Maybe it would be possible to imagine an ambiguity, instability of roles, different from the ones that we are used to. Isn’t our art field often looking for changes like that anyway? But when there is art that does not respond to the fixed roles and structures of our own art fields, it often becomes invisible for us. Our measuring functions with the criteria of professionalism, as if professionalism would always be a synonym of quality.

There is internationally awarded contemporary literature created by Somali authors and there are individual creators that our art field needs as a proof for professionalism.

With these reflections I do not mean to insinuate that there would not be professionalism in the literary field of the Somali diaspora. Of course there is, there are professional writers, poets, editors, book fair organizers, etc. There is internationally awarded contemporary literature created by Somali authors and there are individual creators that our art field needs as a proof for professionalism. The most well-known among them is probably Nuruddin Farah, who switched his writing language from Somali to English to reach a wider audience and received the appreciated Neustadt prize for his production. Some of his books have been translated to Finnish and are at least occasionally read by literature students also in our universities[2].

But apart from that, there may also be a field of literary and poetic creation in Somali language that has collective elements. If I am not wrong and if these collective elements exist, in my opinion they should be considered very valuable.

Our time needs other protagonists.

I have followed a bit freely the flow of my thoughts. Though my title may have promised an encounter between Kullervo and Araweelo, it does not happen in this blog text. I could have imagined how the queen Araweelo castrates Kullervo, so that he´ll never sleep with his sister, and he does not have to kill himself for feeling too guilty. But no, I did not do it. They are characters of the past who do not respond to our needs to construct the story of our time. Our time needs other protagonists. We are more interested in seeing who they are and what will happen between them. Knowing that in the past of our worlds of stories, an imaginary encounter could have changed the course of history, may still create connections that find their personifications in the stories of future and our time.    


In the picture you see Outi Korhonen
Outi Korhonen
Photo: Sergio Prudant

Outi Korhonen is an art educator who worked for years with projects related to multilingualism and cultural diversity in the arts field, e.g. coordinating Multilingual Month. In her projects as regional artist for cultural diversity (2011-2014), she facilitated also projects related to storytelling in Somali language. Now she has returned to teach visual arts for children and youth, assuming the need to restart learning things from the beginning every day.

Projects related to Somali language in this page: https://multilingualmonth.org/tag/somali/
A blog text related to Nordic-Somali book fair in Pasila: Encounters of language and poetry at Nordic Somali Festival (https://multilingualit.org/2016/12/12/nordic-somali-festival/)

[1] A Swedish writer Oscar Trimbel cancelled the distribution of his bilingual Swedish-Somali children’s book Farfar har fyra fruar at Göteborg book fair after being threatened by racist groups. I myself received insults with sexual contents in an online magazine’s discussion in 2011 after I had written a reader’s opinion in Helsingin Sanomat (the biggest Finnish newspaper) about the need to have Somali language teaching in any Finnish university when there was none. The text was written with the director of Finland-Somalia association, who was so used to being insulted that he only laughed at the comments he received, though they were much worse than the ones I got. This made me understand how different positions we have in my country.

[2] Nuruddin Farah’s book Maps (Karttoja) became familiar to me when I studied literature at Helsinki University. It was included in the reading programme of a course of literary analyses.


Kolibrí Festivaali

Kolibrí – the Ibero-American children’s cultural festival  is a way to experience multiculturalism and multilingualism in Finland through children’s eyes. Kolibrí offers an artistic, recreational and educational program in a multicultural setting for all families, irrespective of nationality or language. The events and workshops organized  are open to all, free of charge and carried out in several languages.  From the website you find information also in Spanish and in Portuguese.

The festival is produced by Ninho Monikulttuurikeskus ry, (www.ninho.ry) a grassroots association working for a more multicultural and plural Finland. Besides the festival the association also organises a biannual seminar on children and bilingualism, promotes Ibero-American children’s literature and illustration projects in Finland and supports several exchange programs between Finnish and Ibero-American artists working around children’s arts and culture, with a special emphasis in literature and illustration.

Most of the events of Kolibrí take place in Libraries in Espoo and Cultural Centers in Helsinki.

Photos from events organized by Kolibrí festivaali

Storytelling by Verónica Miranda
architecture by Carolina Isasi & Laura Zuvillaga
music by Aurinko ry with Clara Petrozzi, Grisell MacDonell and Jordy Valderrama
illustration by Kolibrí honored guest 2017: Isidro Ferrer.

Photos credits: Kolibrí Festivaali.

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Vigdís International Centre for Multilingualism and Intercultural Understanding

The Vigdís International Centre for Multilingualism and Intercultural Understanding (or Vigdís World Language Centre, for short) has been established in April 2017, based on an agreement between UNESCO and the government of Iceland. The primary purpose of the Centre is to raise awareness of the importance of languages as one of mankind’s most precious cultural assets.

The World Language Centre will be an information centre for languages and culture with facilities for research and dissemination. It has an exhibition space and an auditorium. In the first years, it will focus on the language situation of the West Nordic region. In cooperation with other institutes, international scholars and those interested in languages, such a centre will be a significant contribution towards preserving and strengthening linguistic diversity.

The World Language Centre regards it an honour to develop and continue the pioneering work that Vigdís Finnbogadóttir has carried out as the UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Languages.

The Vigdís International Centre for Multilingualism and Intercultural Understanding is a UNESCO Category 2 Centre. It counts with an international advisory board that provides advice for preparing and developing the activities of the Vigdís International Centre of Multilingualism and Intercultural Understanding.

The Centre, in cooperation with other institutions in Iceland, now hosts one of world’s largest collections of bi­ and multilingual dictionaries; a donation from Infoterm, based on the legacy of Eugen Wüster (one of the fathers of terminology as a field).

The Vigdís World Language Centre is a part of The Vigdís Finnbogadóttir Institute of Foreign Languages at the University of Iceland.

The Vigdís Finnbogadóttir Institute of Foreign Languages

The Vigdís Finnbogadóttir Institute of Foreign Languages is a research institute working within the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Iceland. The Institute is a research centre for scholars who teach modern languages and cultures, the classical languages and translation studies.

Since 1st October 2001 the Institute has had the honour of bearing the name of Ms. Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, former President of Iceland, 1980-1996. Ms. Vigdís Finnbogadóttir has been a powerful spokesperson for the importance of language proficiency, both in one’s own native tongue as well as in other languages, and she has made a vital contribution to this field in her career as a teacher, as President of Iceland, and as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations.

The institute organizes yearly a seminar to celebrate the international mother language day; this year (2018) the Vigdís World Language Centre took the lead in organizing the:

International Mother language day symposium 21. 2. 2018:

Dictionaries: Multilingualism, Translations and Terminology 2018


Móðurmál – the Association on Bilingualism promotes identity of plurilingual children

Renata Emilsson Peskova, modurmal@modurmal.com

Móðurmál helps educate a new generation of plurilingual children who will be able to draw on their cultural and linguistic resources in the future in various positions, as future teachers, interpreters, entrepreneurs, and leaders.

Móðurmál – the Association on Bilingualism is an umbrella organisation whose main goal is to teach mother tongues, or heritage languages, to plurilingual children. Móðurmál is based in Reykjavík, Iceland and it has over twenty years of history in engaging parents and volunteers in mother tongue instruction.

Móðurmál´s motto is “diversity, identity, respect”. Mother tongue teachers agreed at the annual conference in 2014 that these words express best what the organisation stands for. It supports and celebrates the diversity in the Icelandic society, it strengthens and promotes identity of plurilingual children as well as their parents, and it highlights that mutual respect is alfa and omega of peaceful and constructive relationships.

Móðurmál is an umbrella organisation of more than twenty language groups and schools that work independently as they develop and implement their own teaching and programs. Most of the classes are held on Saturdays or Sundays and in the school year 2017-2018 about 750 children attend mother tongue classes. The groups also meet and collaborate within Móðurmál. Each community has different needs and various resources, but the desire of parents to teach their mother tongues to their children is so strong that they join forces and together overcome time, cost, and organisational barriers. Móðurmál assists the groups and group coordinators, the mother tongue teachers, and the parents in their endeavour to sustain mother tongue teaching. Móðurmál also collaborates with many local and international organisations towards its goals.

Some of Móðurmál´s important connections are the International and Heritage Languages Association in Edmonton, Alberta, Modersmålscentrum in Lund, Sweden, the School and Leisure Department of the City of Reykjavík, the Alliance of Parent´s Associations and Parent´s Councils of Elementary Schools in Reykjavík, the City Library of Reykjavík, the Cultural Centre Gerðuberg, and the Art Gallery of Reykjavík. Individual mother tongue groups collaborate among themselves and oftentimes develop connections with embassies and consulates of their countries, as well as mother tongue schools in their respective languages around the world.

Móðurmál is important to many. It serves several functions, one of which is to help create a multicultural society, mutual understanding of various language groups who share the passion for maintaining and developing mother tongue skills of children. Móðurmál is a precious part of the Icelandic society, because it helps build bridges among languages and cultures. It creates and deepens mutual understanding of various groups and institutions. It gives power to immigrant parents. It enriches the Icelandic multicultural society and helps educate a new generation of plurilingual children who will be able to draw on their cultural and linguistic resources in the future in various positions, as future teachers, interpreters, entrepreneurs, and leaders.

Móðurmál is proud of national awards it has received in the past, namely, a certificate of recognition from the Intercultural Center in 2008, the Society Award of Fréttablaðið (newspaper) in 2014, the Parent Award of Home and School (National Parents Association in 2016) but at the same time, it is searching for more official recognition of its work. It appraises the models in Scandinavian countries and Canada as it continues to work towards sustainable, successful mother tongue education in Iceland.

Renata Emilsson Peskova is a PhD candidate at the School of Education at the University of Iceland. Her research interest lies with plurilingual children and heritage language education. She is the chair of Móðurmál – the Association on Bilingualism.

What Language do You Speak – documentary film and discussion

Film Screening at Stoa,
Turunlinnantie 1, Helsinki
6.3. 2018 at 18:00
short discussion after the film with the director and audience at 19:00

(In case you are interested in showing the film in another context, please ask for the director’s contact from Multilingual Month.)

The documentary film What Language Do You Speak? shows the universal nature of the identity defined by language.
The director of the film, Elisa Bracher from Brazil, will arrive to Finland to participate in the screening. After the film screening we’ll share experiences about multilingual contexts with Elisa, who also runs a children´s art education center in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Welcome to contribute!

Description of the film:
Children and adults who have had to adapt to an environment where their own language is not understandable, tell about their experiences in e.g. Brazil, Britain and India. Each experience is unique, but learning the language appears to be the key to being treated as an equal.

“At that time people didn’t understand us. Kids would laugh at you in class, if you said the wrong thing, or if you spoke differently. Because of that there was no other option than to stay quiet. And you had to try hard, try hard to be invisible”
(Girl from Somalia, migrated to Britain)

Brasil 2017, 65 min
Director Elisa Bracher
Main Language Portuguese, English texts. The film includes interviews or fragments also in English, Somali and many other languages.
Tue 6.3.2018 at 18.00
Stoa, Musiikkisali
Turunlinnantie 1, Itäkeskus , Helsinki
Free entry

Elisa Bracher will be interviewed by Outi Korhonen

What happens in Multilingual Month 2018?

Happy mother language day 21.2! Multilingual Month is about to begin! This month will offer a lot to follow for people interested in increasing their skills and knowledge about multilingualism in the Nordic countries. Our blogs focus on the other hand on issues of the Sámi languages alterning with a blog series that moves in a widely multilingual context from poets, language learning and dictionaries to creative communities. Events organized in Iceland, Finland, Sweden and Norway give ideas of the multiple ways of approaching, sharing and celebrating the lingual diversity in our actual societies. Welcome to follow,  join and contribute!

Blog posts in 2018 offer multilingual visions from Sápmi, Iceland, Norway and Finland

Our blog of Multilingual Month 2018 includes two parts. Altering with the texts about the widely multilingual Nordic region, we have a blog series curated by Helga West, reporter of YLE Sápmi, focusing on current issues related to Sámi languages. In the first blog text in this series West presented shortly themes of the blog and her ideas behind the blog series.

The other blog articles come this year from Iceland, Finland and Norway.

From Iceland’s very active field of multilingualism we have two posts. Renata Peskova’s post talks about the Móðurmál association that has over twenty years of history in finding different ways to teach mother tongues to plurilingual children in Iceland. A different story is the one of ÓsPressan, a multilingual and inclusive writing community that promotes new authors and offers platforms for creative people in Reykjavik. Anna Valdís will tell us more in her post. In regards to Iceland´s multilingual fields, we also want to thank Kristin Vilhjalmsdóttir, who has contacted us with many of the Icelandic organizations.

From Norway, Giti Nassouri from Oslo’s multilingual library gives an insight to multilingual contents from the point of view of a librarian in charge of Bengali, Hindi, Punjabi, Dutch, Greek, Dari, Pashto, Persian and Urdu book collections. In her post she will write about Indian, Iranian and Pakistani poets.

The texts from Finland come from Husein Muhammed and Ahmed Hassan with Konsta Savolainen. Husein Muhammed’s blog post presents the case of constructing a Kurdish-Finnish dictionary at Kotus, Institute for the languages of Finland, as part of a dictionary series for speakers of migrant languages. Muhammed’s work with words will continue in a report about Nordic-Kurdish literature. Konsta Savolainen and Ahmed Hassan from NordicSom organization write about the work of motivating migrant youth to become plurilingual by encouraging them to learn Swedish in Finland as the Swedish skills often offer more opportunities in Finland. A video will illustrate their post.

Events related to multilingualism in Finland, Sweden, Norway and Iceland

Every Nordic country has different creative ideas in the interdisciplinary fields of multilingualism. In Iceland several organizations including Reykjavik City LIbrary, Óspressan, Modurmal and Vigdís International Centre for Multilingualism and Intercultural Understanding will host language related events during Multilingual Month. In Sweden, Litteraturcentrum Uppsala continues with their yearly tradition of Mother language poetry festival (Modersmålpoesifestival, Feb 28th). In Finland Helsinki cultural centres offer a series of events including a multimedia poetry night (March 17th), a fair of educational methods in multilingual contexts (Leikin sata kieltä ja tarinaa March 1st), film screening of a new documentary What language do you speak? with a discussion with the director of the film (March 6th) and a children´s exhibition about multilingual families with a rich side programme (Mennään jo naapuriin!). Libraries offer storytelling in different languages. In Norway, the multilingual library of Oslo has been active for years in creating materials for the celebration of Mother Language Day and thus contributed in making visible and easily organizable the celebration of languages.

In the context of Multilingual Month, our idea is to share different forms of working in multilingual contexts, seeing multilingualism as a richness. We will be happy to share language related events during Multilingual month as a form of making other people aware of the kind of work that is being done in other Nordic countries in this field. Feel free to post your event link to us or tell us about your ongoing projects!

During Multilingual Month 21.2.-21.3. we will share at www.multilingualmonth.org and in facebook information about different organizations that work with multilingualism. At the same time, the website will increase its link archive of Nordic organizations and projects that can offer new insights to linguistic diversity. Our aim is to contribute to the flourishing of our region as one where the freedom of expression includes also a wider choice of languages of expression. Multilingual Month is part of the project Multilingualism and Diversity as a Resource in the Cultural Field coordinated by Culture for All Service in the frame of  Norden2020.

Leikin sata kieltä ja tarinaa / The hundred languages of playing

Leikin sata kieltä ja tarinaa / The hundred languages of playing is a fare about children’s education in multilingual and intercultural contexts. In 2018 the event is organized for the third year as part of the programme of Satakielikuukausi / Multilingual Month. In the event, focused for professional educators and parents, various actors in the Helsinki metropolitan area present the latest materials, methods and projects.They will introduce activities promoting and supporting children’s play, play between children and adults, using stories as material for play, overcoming language barriers through play, and the accessibility of children’s literature in various languages.
In 2018 the event took place in:
Thu 1.3.2018 at 12.30 – 16.00
Stoa, Lobby
Turunlinnantie 1

Leikin sata kieltä ja tarinaa

Kasvatusalan ammattilaisille ja lasten vanhemmille suunnatussa tapahtumassa pääkaupunkiseudun eri toimijat esittelevät tuoreimpia materiaaleja, metodeja ja projekteja. 

Esillä on ajankohtaisia toimintoja, joilla edistetään ja tuetaan lasten omaa leikkiä, lasten ja aikuisten välistä leikkiä, tarinan käyttämistä leikin aineksena, kielirajojen ylittämistä leikissä sekä erikielisen lastenkirjallisuuden saavutettavuutta.

Tapahtuma on hyvä tilaisuus kuulla tämän hetken projekteista sekä verkostoitua alan ihmisiin ja toimijoihin. Tapahtuma on suunnattu pääkaupunkiseudun varhaiskasvatusalan, kulttuuritoimen ja kirjastojen ammattilaisille, alan järjestöille ja opiskelijoille sekä lasten vanhemmille.

Yhteistyössä mm. kulttuuri-, kirjasto- ja liikuntapalvelut sekä varhaiskasvatus ja esiopetus.

Leikin sata kieltä ja tarinaa on osa kielellistä moninaisuutta juhlivaa Satakielikuukautta, joka järjestetään 21.2.–21.3.2018.

Paikka: Stoan aula

Tema morsmål – support for multilingual education

Tema Morsmål is a website that offers resources to support different mother tongues and multilingual work in child care, mother tongue education and bilingual education in schools.

It offers learning resources in a wide variety of mother tongues for all employees in kindergartens and schools, focusing especially on multilingual staff in kindergartens, mother tongue teachers, bilingual teachers and teachers in special Norwegian schools and for minority language children and parents.

Tema Morsmål communicates current information about native language and multilingualism, both nationally and internationally, from research environments to educational practice and builds networks for the site’s current audiences.

The website’s main language is Norwegian but it has also versions in Arabic , in Dari, in Sorani Kurdish, in Lithuanian, in Pashto, in Persian, in Polish, in Russian, in Somali, in Spanish, in Tamil, in Thai, in Tigrinya, in Turkish and in Urdu.

Café Lingua – Living Languages – Lifandi tungumál

A worldful of languages!

Café Lingua is a platform for those who want to enhance their language skills, Icelandic or other languages, a place to communicate in and about various languages as well as a gateway into different cultures. The goal is to “unveil” the linguistic treasures that have found their way to Iceland, enriching life and culture, as well as giving world citizens the option to express themselves in Icelandic and to introduce their mother tongues to others. The Café Lingua events are held in the culture houses of Reykjavik City Library, “Veröld” – the Vigdís World Language Centre and in “Stúdentakjallarinn” at the University of Iceland.

Everybody interested in languages and in contributing to the linguistic landscape of Reykjavik is welcome. Free admission.

The project is run by the to Reykjavik City Library and the Vigdís World Language Centre.

Photo: Kristinn Ingvarsson

Follow Café Lingua on Facebook.

Reykjavik City Library runs several  intercultural projects where the goal is to promote awareness of the positive values of cultural diversity in our society. The library puts an emphasis on co-operating with social service centres, schools, organizations and individuals from all over the world living in Reykjavík. The IFLA/UNESCO Multicultural Library Manifesto is used as a guideline in this work.

Kristín R. Vilhjálmsdóttir is the manager of multicultural projects at Reykjavík City Library. She is a language teacher and intercultural project manager, who has coordinated several award-winning projects related to interculturalism and multilingualism.




Photo: Pálína Magnúsdóttir

The Flying Carpet – Fljúgandi teppi

The Flying Carpet – intercultural encounters 

The Flying Carpet is a method of facilitated intercultural encounters created by Kristin R. Vilhjálmsdóttir. By implementing the The Flying Carpet in the teaching, students, parents and staff members get an opportunity to introduce their culture, languages and interests in a fun and lively way within an encouraging environment.

The emphasis is to not only work with aspects of national culture or backgrounds, but also individual interests and those things that matter the most in each and every person’s life.

The project should promote mutual respect and understanding between people in a concrete way and through different means of expressions. Everyone involved is received with acknowledgement. Through the cultural interaction that takes place the goal is to help developing life-skills that foster the view that diversity makes us richer, rather than seeing it as a cause for conflict.

Each individual is a participant and a spectator at the same time.


2010 and 2015: Nominated to the society price of “Fréttablaðið”, an Icelandic news paper, in the category “actions against prejudice”.

2017: The Icelandic contribution to The Nordic Language Festival in Aarhus.

2017: The Flying Carpet received The European Language Label.

Information about the Flying carpet in English

Video about the Flying Carpet in English


Reykjavik City Library runs several  intercultural projects where the goal is to promote awareness of the positive values of cultural diversity in our society. The library puts an emphasis on co-operating with social service centres, schools, organizations and individuals from all over the world living in Reykjavík. The IFLA/UNESCO Multicultural Library Manifesto is used as a guideline in this work.

Kristín R. Vilhjálmsdóttir is the manager of multicultural projects at Reykjavík City Library. She is a language teacher and intercultural project manager, who has coordinated several award-winning projects related to interculturalism and multilingualism.