Meiju Niskala


It's important that one gets taken by surprise in a city

"The best thing about Helsinki is the sea. It's in motion, it connects and constantly reminds of new possibilities. It was alive before there were aeroplanes. The sea is a link to somewhere else, an opportunity for adventure." 

When the artist Meiju Niskala moved to Helsinki in 2006, she often climbed atop the tower of the Olympic Stadium to look out over the city. From high up you could see everything clearly. "I tried to understand the city from standing there, to see it from a wider angle."

Niskala is originally from Central Finland but relocated to Helsinki via Turku. In the capital she enjoys the beautiful architecture of the Katajanokka district, the city’s many flower beds, and the botanical gardens. The best thing about Helsinki is the sea that stays on your skin all the time. Niskala's 20-minute walk from her home to her studio makes her happy every single time. Her route takes her along the sea, and she doesn’t pass by many other people.

"That’s when I get a strong feeling that all of this is meant for me and this moment. It's necessary to find moments and spaces in a city where you get this feeling." 

What Niskala needs from a hometown is a good balance of familiar places and surprises. "We often use the cityscape in a way that if we want coffee, we go to a café. It's extremely important that one also gets taken by surprise in a city. As an example, I have enjoyed Midsummers in the city where Helsinki is completely quiet and has been taken over by skateboarders." 

"Densifying the city is not a value in itself"      

Niskala has made participatory artworks in Helsinki and Turku, among other places. She finds it important that there is a high diversity of different areas that are witnesses to their times: the old part of Eira, the Särkiniemi cottages, the wooden housing district of Tapanila, the colourful Pikku Huopalahti, and the old linden trees of Munkkivuori.

"I have a wish that space be given to diversity. Densifying the city is not a value in itself." Niskala's relationship with Helsinki is crystallised well in the line “my way of living is not the only way to live”. She finds it important to encounter different kinds of people and surroundings in everyday life, and to relate to them with curiosity. When Niskala lived in Kallio, she would sometimes go to sit around in the courtyard of the senior home in Sörnäinen.

"I can learn more about people and life by meeting different kinds of people. It's important that a city has both cycling buffs and people who find their way around slowly on their walkers. It's a reminder of the diversity of humanity." 

Meiju Niskala
Age: 41
Profession: Artist, author
Lives in: Helsinki
What you didn't know about me: I keep therapy sheep as well as chickens in the countryside, and I have a humongous garden. One of the chickens is called Geeli-Jari, and another one is Eiran Birgitta. They are very different but the best of friends.

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