Annikinkatu

by Cunt Incognita (Fotze in Berlin)  [she=he]

Annikinkatu in Tampere, Finland.

During my time in exile from the dysfunctional social center project in Helsinki, I had reached out for facilitators to help out in the conflict. One suggestion I got was to contact a community in Tampere with experience from dealing with internal grievances.

So, less than a year later, when I got invited to do a presentation on sexism within alternative spaces in Hirvitalo, I contacted a woman from this community in Annikinkatu (Anniki’s street), and we managed to have a few hours of exchange one morning before she rushed off to Helsinki to do a workshop there.

Annikinkatu is a unique remains of the old city. Near the center of the town, in the midst of modern block buildings, stands a hundred year old wooden quarter. An atmospheric building with dry toilets splitting the courtyard in two square inner yards, connecting not only the doors of the persons inhabiting the place, but also giving a connection to the past, not so often sensed in Finland where most wooden buildings have been replaced by anonymous concrete blocks, isolating their inhabitants in cells and echoing narrow walkways.

The woman I got to speak with had spent 16 years in Annikinkatu, and I was eager to hear of their ways of resolving differences. The first thing that caught my attention was her way of speaking of their meetings as Väenkokous (People meeting) instead of Talonkokous (House meeting). This choice of words shows that the focus in Annikinkatu is on the people living there and the way they relate to one another, and not, as in the case with the Helsinki social center project and its House meetings, with a focus on the walls that surround them, where people are merely valued as tools in service of the building, and in many cases: perceived as an unnecessary unwanted nuisance.

She confirmed that the internal relations were very important, and that there were many ways of resolving the differences within. Mostly it seemed that Talking and Time was the way to ease tension. If direct communication between parties wasn’t possible, the habit was to talk the matters over in smaller groups with persons it felt more comfortable with, and then later return to expressing thoughts and feelings directly between the persons involved.

Twice during her time in the community, there had been Open Space meetings arranged. All the members of the community expressing their concerns on pieces of paper, put on the walls for everyone to read. This way the attention was fully focused on the worries and not on the persons expressing them. Some examples of concerns mentioned could be: “I’ve hung my socks to dry in the yard, and now they’re gone.” “There is a family where the man is violent to the woman.”

After everyone has had time to read the papers, they’re taken down, and on the back, you write how you wish for things to be. For example: “I want to find my socks.” “I want the violence to stop.”

Then, if there are many papers expressing similar concerns, people can get into smaller groups and — this is what the woman was stressing – look for PRACTICAL solutions.

I asked what had been done in the case of the violent man, and was told that it had been resolved by a small group of people coming together and telling the man that the behavior was unacceptable. A handful of persons had been assigned as contact persons for the woman to call if she would ever feel threatened. Apparently the solutions worked. The violence was stopped.

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