To the borderland with poetry

Huang Nubo thinks Grense Jakobselv is the perfect place for a Chinese-Icelandic poetry festival.

Poets from China, Iceland and Sápmi gathered at the Russia-Norwegian border to cross the Cultural Boundaries and share their passion for poems.


The landscape in Grense Jakobselv is rough. There are almost no trees and the waves from the Barents Sea usually crush relentlessly into the shore. The small stone church, King Oscar II’s Chapell, is clinging to a rock wall. The church was built in 1826 as a result of the Russians’ refusal to recognize the Russian-Norwegian border.

“This is a perfect place for a Chinese-Icelandic poetry festival,” says the wealthy Chinese real estate entrepreneur, poet and founder of the festival, Mr. Huang Nubo.

“We were searching for a place far away from the city noise. But at the same time we wanted a place full of life. Look at this beauty. This is clearly God`s playground, says Huang Nubo to Barents Observer.

Poetry as gratitude
In 2010 Nubo donated 1 million USD to the Iceland-China cultural fund, from which 100 000 USD will be spent to organize a poetry festival every year for a decade.

Huang Nubo`s donation originates in his fondness for Iceland and poetry. It all started back in the 80`s when Nubo shared a student flat with a guy from Iceland. The flat was unpleasantly cold and they lacked money. Nubo was therefore overwhelmed when they both received knitted woolen sweaters from the roommate`s mother.

The Chinese economy developed fast and the poor student soon became one of the richest men in China. But Nubo never forgot the support he got from Iceland when he needed it most.

“I just feel a great gratitude towards the Icelandic people because of the friendship, and I want to give the nation something in return. As far as I am concerned the most beautiful I can give them is poetry”, Nubo says.

Fascination for the Sami homeland
The poetry festival has earlier been arranged in Reykjavik (2010) and Beijing (2011), but it`s the first time the festival is arranged outside the core area of interest. The main reason why Norway was chosen is Mr. Nubo`s fascination for the Sami people.

“Grense Jakobselv is in the heart of the Sami area and therefore a dream place to read and listen to poetry. The indigenous peoples have the purest souls in the world”, says Nubo.

Sigbjørn Skåden is one of four Sami poets invited to participate in the festival.

“Not too many festivals are interested in Sami poetry. It`s cool that poems written in Sami, one of the smallest languages in the world, are translated into Mandarin, one of the biggest languages in the world”, he says.

“It feels quite special to be invited to a unique festival like this. I guess I won`t forget this festival”, he says.

Other benefits
According to Huang Nubo the Iceland-China cultural fund has managed to tighten the cultural ties between the Nordic countries and China. Because Nubo is an influential man in China, many Chinese people have heard of Iceland and are eager to visit the country.

“The tourist industry in Iceland is growing rapidly as Chinese people are visiting the country. If I can contribute to some sort of growth, I am happy”, he says.