Poetry or Freedom (2015)


In 1867, the Estonian then aspiring poet Lydia Koidula (1843–1886) sent a letter to the Võru based physician and author Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald (1803–1882) to have his remarks on her book Emajõe ööbik (Eng. The Emajõe Nightingale). This was the start of a seven-year-long correspondence between the two. Emajõe ööbik contained patriotic texts such as Mu isamaa on minu arm (Eng. My Fatherland is My Love), and Sind surmani! (Eng. You until death!). Many years later, on Christmas Eve 1987, the Free-Independent Youth Column No. 1 gathered by the Kreutzwald monument in Kreutzwald park in Võru. This well-attended event was an evening of poetry, and people recited Koidula’s poems aloud, in an emotional action for Estonian independence. For the exhibition The Visitors, the Estonian artist Liina Siib will publish an artist book with Koidula’s poems, and stage re-enactments of the evening of poetry at the same location as in 1987. Local people from Võru are asked to once again read Koidula’s poems. Today, in an entirely new context, the readings will most likely create both a sense of déjà vu and a new understanding of Koidula’s writing.

Andreas Nilsson