Tiernapojat (the Star Boys)
Oulu has declared itself as the Tierna Town and the Star Boy performance is employed as central part of the brand of Oulu. It is promoted as part of the authentic Oulu-culture and tradition.
This regardless the fact that the Star Boys as a living and ever changing tradition has been dead since the beginning of the 20th century. The performances these days keep rigidly repeating a reduced version of only one of a variety of plays, which was documented by Samuli Paulaharju in the early 19-hundreds.
Also the Star Boy tradition comes from the biblical Magi (also known as the three kings or three wise men legend), that is spread all over Europe and Americas. In many places the Magi is performed in non-racializing ways. One of the most racist outcomes of the tradition has been the Zwarte Piet in Holland, and another is the Star Boy-performance in Oulu.
My artwork consists of a fresh interpretation of Uuno Laukka’s photograph from the year 1946. In my photograph the boys are stripped of costumes, leaving only the make-up and the pose. The photograph is part of the series of posters that were displayed in two locations in the Hupisaaret Park during August-September 2013 in the exhibition ‘Täällä!’, which had as its theme explorations of the identity of Oulu.
In addition to the poster series, a public discussion was held about the fostering of the tradition in the ‘New Oulu’ (this is how the city calls itself after the unification of several municipalities).
Link to transcription of the discussion in Finnish