It is first time in history a North Korean instructor has more than 200 uniformed NATO soldiers under command. The soldiers performed exemplary on the snow-stage built for the Barents Spektakel festival in Kirkenes, near Norway’s northern border to Russia.
“This is an A-ha experience,” says Morten Traavik, the artist that created the cultural connection between multi-cultural Kirkenes and the most closed nation in the world. He underlines that this is not a cooperation between North Korea and NATO, but a cultural collaboration between artists, the border guards and the festival.
The performance called ME/WE is a part of Traavik’s art project named “The Promised Land.”
Following signal-flags and command shouts from a North Korean is likely as far away from daily duty as these soldiers can get. Normally they are out in the ice-cold bush guarding Norway’s 196 kilometer long land border with Russia on ski or snowmobile.
Norwegian border guard soldiers awaiting instructions from North Koreans. Photo: Thomas Nilsen
Each soldier turns over pages of a colorful flip-book, becoming one of the 256 pixels forming a large photo. When turned, another picture appears and so on. The photos are typical motives from the Norwegian, Russian border land and the Arctic. Several of the photos were taken by BarentsObserver’s photographers.
The mass games performance was accompanied by young musicians from Kum Song music school in Pyongyang that played an accordion version of “Take on Me” megahit by A-ha. A YouTube version of the North Korean teenagers playing the melody got more than one million viewers during this week.
256 pixel-people sitting on a snow-stage forming a typical Barents Region image. Photo: Thomas Nilsen
Barents Spektakel art-festival in Kirkenes is a cultural-political cocktail with contemporary art, performances, literature, theatre, film, seminars and concerts as ingredients, spiced with the current issues related to the Barents Region and the High North in general.
The North Koreans visited Barents Spektakel first time last year.
MURMANSK: Ecological groups gathered on Kola Peninsula fear that Barents nature will be the looser after Oslo decided to call off the environmental minister’s Moscow meeting in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
TROMSØ: Since the first five specimens of snow crab were found in the Barents Sea in 1996, the population has exploded. There is now ten times as much snow crab than king crab in the area, and scientists are just starting to find out how this new species has adopted to life in the Barents Sea.
The current situation in Ukraine makes cross-border cooperation with the neighboring countries even more important, Barents Secretariat leader Rune Rafaelsen says. At the same time, Norway has joined NATO’s condemnation of Russia’s military escalation on the Crimea peninsula.
Board member Amund Trellevik in the press network fears entry-denial of Kremlin’s controversial propaganda-journalist Dmitry Kiselyov could be retaliated by refusing Norwegian journalists access to Russia.