Healing & Dealing
Shifting social responsibility On the Cultural Field
Healing & Dealing is a programme consisting of two mirrored events, of which Dealing focuses on anti-racism training for white cultural workers and institutions whilst Healing brings together black cultural actors to take a break from the racist power structures that surround them and focus on self-care. Both segments promote a more inclusive future on the cultural sector by offering tools and methods for the communities that help deconstruct the white supremacist frameworks that dominate the European cultural field, while emphasising self-care among the black communities in Europe.
By taking a holistic approach to anti-racist work, the project offers a unique and constructive perspective on anti-racist work and the discussions that surround it, performed in environments that are dedicated safer spaces for all participants in all participating countries.
The programme derives from the piloted version of the mirror events realised by The Finnish Cultural Institute for the Benelux in Finland and Belgium in 2022.
The piloted version of Healing & Dealing was designed and coordinated by the Institute’s Project Assistant Laisa Conde, and its success showed a demand for a larger and further internationalised version of the programme.
We are currently in the process of applying for financial support. If you are interested to know more or would like to support the project, please contact our Head of Programme, Malin Bergström at email@example.com.
Healing & Dealing proposed plan for 2024-2026
In the new edition of the Healing & Dealing programme the individual programme segments will expand to several days of events in different countries to achieve constructive change on a volatile social market. Healing & Dealing mirror events will be organised in Finland, the United Kingdom, the Benelux region, and Sweden, totalling in 20 days of workshops realised across the four participating countries and regions.
The programme is a planned to create a balance where white people take time to deal with racist structures and black people take time to focus on self-care. The programme is to be realised in different settings in different countries, inviting local audiences to participate. The majority of the workshop facilitators are chosen locally, and by such minimise unnecessary traveling during the country specific modules.
The Healing & Dealing programme culminates in a Healing Residency for black participants in Senegal, with a focus on Healing in a primarily black environment and culture, lasting seven days. The Healing Residency has been added to the programme to further emphasise the well-being of black artists and cultural actors in Europe by allowing the participants to completely remove themselves out of white cultural contexts, and expand the programme beyond European frameworks. The Residency will be organised in conjunction with the Dakar Biennale, with segments that utilise the programme set for the biennale. The Healing Residency will include participants from Europe, as well as from West-Africa. For each module, a communications professional will be hire to optimise communication and marketing in each country.
To conclude the Healing & Dealing programme, experiences, thoughts, and creative responses by participants and other relevant artists will be collected in a visual and informative publication, which reports the completed programme, and functions as a source of inspiration and advice for organisations working with anti-racist projects. The publication will demonstrate not only responses from the different modules or their segments, but also reflects on the experiences and new ways of thinking in cultural production. The publication will be printed in the format of a highly visual book after the programme finishes, and will be sent out free of charge to partners, facilitators and participants, as well as other interested parties, such as cultural organisations, libraries, archives, and bookstores. The publication will be produced in partnership with an international distributor. Berlin-based publisher Archive Books has expressed a preliminary interest in collaborating on the publication.
Healing & Dealing Pilot version 2022: Process and Results
The Healing & Dealing pilot programme was realised by the Finnish Cultural Institute for the Benelux in Helsinki and in Brussels in the spring of 2022. The concept had a lot of positive interest from different international partners already early into the planning stages of the project. The two mirror events were overall well received and based on the feedback from participants the conversations and workshops held were much needed in order to improve the social relationship between the two groups. Equally, the idea of promoting tools for well-being towards the black community, giving the participants the room and space to breathe and exist, was very welcomed among the invitees.
The Healing Day was realised in Belgium in June 2022, and was a day for black women and non-binary participants to come together in order to simply exist as humans, as opposed to constantly feeling pushed into the narrow stereotypes and collectives that they are often categorised into. The Finnish Cultural Institute for the Benelux invited guests from Finland, the Netherlands and Belgium to part-take in the day. In total the group consisted of eight participants with three persons facilitating the day.
The Healing day was facilitated by Curator and Cultural Organiser Isabelle N’diaye and Mindfulness Coach Céline Gaza, who created a space in Café Congo in Brussels, where everyone was safe and welcome to express and embrace all of their feelings. New connections and bonds were made, and the participants expressed feelings of gratitude towards the event and its focus on shared experiences, community, and self-care. Many of the participants had never been in a safe space before and some got to feel belonging for the first time in their lives.
The Dealing workshops were organised in Helsinki in May 2022 as part of the annual #StopHatredNow festival, and consisted of a Whiteness Aerobics workshop that gave white cultural workers and other participating professionals perspective and tools on how to respond when faced by racist behaviour – either by witnessing such behaviour, or by being challenged as an instigator of the said behaviour. The holistic approach helped the participants to better understand their own emotional and physical responses to unpleasant social situations and interactions, and thereby were able to work on their own approaches to such challenges in the future. The workshop was delivered once online and once in person at the Cultural Centre Caisa, and was developed and facilitated by multidisciplinary artist Lehmus Murtomaa. The Dealing workshops were aimed at white participants from the cultural sector, but were also open to a wider audience. Both workshops were booked at capacity, with a total of 48 persons attending.
The Healing & Dealing programme was born out of the urge to shift the responsibility of anti-racist praxis in culture from black communities to white organisations, and to promote self-care and healing practices for black communities. Tackling racism and the implementation of anti-racist praxis has been researched and discussed on a national level in Finland as well as within EU-policy. Equally, the Finnish Call to Action spurred in the aftermath of the 2020 Black Lives Matters protests in Europe challenges cultural institutions to look over their internal praxis’s, demanding improved conditions for non-white actors on the field and challenging the dominating social norms in the cultural sector. And not without reason – as a study on quality of life among persons of African descent in Europe shows Finland as one of the most racist countries in the region, with the highest recorded numbers of racist harassment (63%) and violence motivated by racism (14%). Systematic racism is embedded in white European society at a structural level, and in Finland the importance of recognition and cooperation with local communities and municipalities are key factors in the efforts for change.
In Finland, one in ten inhabitants are of foreign descent, and this number increases to one in five in the Helsinki metropolitan area, of which Somali descendants make up the largest non-European population. Today, Afro-Finns constitute the largest second-generation immigrant population, of which the majority resides in the Helsinki region. Yet the black population and communities still face scrutiny and discrimination as well spatial marginalisation. In the visualisations of Finland, the dominant image of the cultural landscape still omits BIPOC populations both in terms of heritage and the notion of Finnishness.
As arts and culture functioning as a driving force for change, much of the cultural sector are working towards and have made efforts to improve their conditions and programme output to better reflect an inclusive and more diverse image of Finland. However, the progress is slow, and often even the internal best efforts rely on education and advise (often unsolicited and not reimbursed) from black actors either working in or with the institutions in question. In addition, much of the efforts made are in the format of workshops and education about the differences between the white majority and black minority in Finland, which maintains the minority groups as “others”.
Staff education about cultural differences is seen to suffice as an anti-racist effort to improve the internal working conditions. This method of white innocence merely shift the reoccurring issues, misunderstandings, and micro-aggressions aside under the label “we are still learning”, but with little long-standing progress shown. Shallow attempts at structural change and anti-racist agendas can even prove counteractive, where non-white cultural aspects are presented in forms of celebration, instead of recognition of rights, cultural heritage, as well as identities.
The implementation of safer working environments and creative spaces are not simple principles to add to an institution which is already dominated by a white institutional structure, but requires tools, new methods of working, and continuous self-reflection. The Healing & Dealing programme takes both communities into account – the black artistic/cultural community and the white artistic/cultural community – as collaborating entities for structural change and accountability, where each entity is given their own safe space to grow. The notion of accountability is not placed on white institutions for change, but on the workers that function, evolve, and develop the institutions’ internal structures. The subject of responsibility is approached with an understanding for implications of the personal role in a white supremacist society, given tools on how to encounter and challenge injustices. The notion of healing and self-assessing is given further tools of examination, by widening professional and support networks.
 Being Black in the EU: Second European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey. Summary, (2018), EU-MIDIS II, European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, pp. 2. Retrieved from: https://fra.europa.eu/sites/default/files/fra_uploads/fra-2019-being-black-in-the-eu-summary_en.pdf [23.08.2022]; “Finland among most racist countries in EU, study says”, YLE news, (29.11.2018), online. Retrieved from: https://yle.fi/news/3-10531670 [23.08.2022].
 An Equal Finland: Government Action Plan for Combating. Racism and Promoting Good Relations between Population Groups, Publications of the Ministry of Justice, Memorandums and statements 2022:2, Ministry of Justice Finland, pp.48. Retrieved from: https://julkaisut.valtioneuvosto.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/163737/OM_2022_2_ML.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y[23.08.2022].
 See Kelekay, J. 2022. “‘We’re Not All Thugs in the East’: The Racial Politics of Place in Afro-Finnish Hip Hop.” In Finnishness, Whiteness and Coloniality, edited by J. Hoegaerts, T. Liimatainen, L. Hekanaho and E. Peterson, 207–37. Helsinki: Helsinki University Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.33134/HUP-17-9; Mäkelä, H. H. 2022. “Visualizing Heritage, Ethnicity and Gender Bodily Representations of Finnishness in the Photographs of the National Inventory of Living Heritage.” In Finnishness, Whiteness and Coloniality, edited by J. Hoegaerts, T. Liimatainen, L. Hekanaho and E. Peterson, 41–71. Helsinki: Helsinki University Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.33134/HUP-17-3.
 Kuokkanen, R. 2022. “All I See Is White: The Colonial Problem in Finland.” In Finnishness, Whiteness and Coloniality, edited by J. Hoegaerts, T. Liimatainen, L. Hekanaho and E. Peterson, 291–314, pp. 292. Helsinki: Helsinki University Press. DOI: https://doi.org /10.33134/HUP-17-12. The notion of “innocence” in white vs racialized context is extensively discussed in the different research approaches in this volume on Finnish coloniality, and can be further examined in Wekker, G. 2016. White Innocence: Paradoxes of Colonialism and Race. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Healing & Dealing is a two-part project taking place this spring in Brussels and Helsinki. Dealing will be part of the Stop Hatred Now festival in Helsinki, focusing on white people and encouraging them to take responsibility for their part within structural white supremacy.