On 6 November 2019, the Alfred Kordelin Foundation awarded this year’s science and culture prizes. The prizes were awarded to Maria Ylipää, actor and singer; Harri Vasander, Professor of Peatland Forestry in the University of Helsinki; Pasi Heikura, journalist and humourist; and dancer-choreographer Ismo-Pekka Heikinheimo. Each award consists of the sum of €30,000. The Alfred Kordelin prize is awarded annually as a recognition and encouragement of work done on behalf of Finnish culture. Prizes can be given to private individuals or collectives.
‘With the prize, we want to strengthen the position and visibility of science and culture’, says Erik Båsk , Managing Director of the Alfred Kordelin Foundation.
The Board of Directors of the Kordelin Foundation selects the awardees based on proposals drawn up by experts.
‘Each year, more than 20 experts from the Foundation’s 18 background organisations prepare the prize selections, guaranteeing that science and culture are diversely represented’, says Båsk.
Next year will be the 100th anniversary of the very first prize. It was awarded to composer Jean Sibelius. In recent years, prize recipients have included , Antti Tanttu, visual artist, Anssi Lassila, architect, Rauli Virtanen, journalist and non-fiction author, and, Markus Jäntti professor.
Actor and singer Maria Ylipää
Maria Ylipää, actor and singer, is building a career of unsurpassed versatility and success in various fora, also outside the Finnish borders. She impresses and convinces in the theatre, on TV, in the movies, and as a voice actor. Her repertoire includes many highly-praised lead roles in musicals in both Finland and Sweden, the most memorable of which is surely her touching performance as Kristina från Duvemåla – not forgetting Wicked at the Helsinki City Theatre, and Chess at Svenska Teatern. Ylipää shines also in front of the camera. The 2018 Golden Venla award for best actress testifies to her merit as the fundamentally conflicted lead character of the Aallonmurtaja TV series. A very recent triumph was her difficult and challenging role in the movie based on Sofi Oksanen’s Baby Jane. Here, Ylipää demonstrates how truly compelling she can be as she works herself under the skin of her characters. We have even seen her as Jesus in Via Crucis, the traditional Helsinki spectacle.
Ylipää has also recorded a large selection of new Finnish music, based on the texts of various poets. She has performed in countless concerts, and given her voice to many animated characters. Ylipää’s performances are always vivid, strong, and delicate, and express the highest quality. She has also been selected to play the lead roles in many Swedish and Finnish-Swedish major productions, an accomplishment reached by very few native Finnish speakers. Moreover, Ylipää has strived to introduce important ethical questions to public debate e.g. in her role as an ambassador for the Finn Church Aid.
Harri Vasander, Professor of Peatland Forestry
Harri Vasander, Professor of Peatland Forestry, is a distinguished natural scientist and an all-rounder of science. In addition to researching the sustainable use of renewable natural resources, he is an influential non-fiction author and a guardian of Finnish culture and tradition. Vasander’s research topics are primarily related to mire ecosystems, and the impact of environmental change. Vasander has studied the dynamics of natural and drained mires in both Finland and Indonesia. Based on his work, he has been an expert commentator on the use of Finnish mires – a topic that we know has been under heated debate. The ecological, financial and social significance of mires is great. Finland is known to be one of the most mire-rich countries in the world. A third of our land area consists of mires, of which more than half have been drained for forestry.
Harri Vasander has been active in the creation of various artistic and experiential events that have informed the general public of mire nature and Finnish culture related to mires. He has also been involved in the revitalization of the legendary tradition of Finnish expeditions to Russia. In addition to his impressive list of scientific publications, Vasander has published more than 30 guide books to mire nature (for example ‘Suotyypit ja turvekankaat’ in 2018, written with Jukka Laine et al.), and he is also a co-author of a guide to Sphagnum mosses, published in English and regarded by many researchers as the best book on Sphagnum mosses to date.
Journalist, non-fiction author, humourist and musician Pasi Heikura
Pasi Heikura, journalist, non-fiction author, humourist and musician, has for three decades already opened up unexpected vistas to the hidden riches and peculiarities of Finnish language. The non-fiction, lyrics, and radio shows created by Heikura demonstrate how the fireworks amalgamating archaic expressions, never-before-heard neologisms, and surprising word choices create a new native language, updated to our times. Heikura’s humorous, intelligently witty but still easily accessible way to express what he has to say is fascinating to both the linguist and the layman.
Aristoteleen kantapää, an Yle Radio 1 programme hosted by Heikura together with Tina Cavén, is a radio show on language and language use that expands its scope to provide us with insightful commentary on the features of also other languages than Finnish. Aristoteleen kantapää does not underestimate its listeners, nor is it afraid to feature rigorous historical facts; all this is done in a way that is at least covertly funny, making the programme anything but musty. Almost imperceptibly it activates its listeners to observe the language around them, and, consequently, their own language use too. Alivaltiosihteeri, on the other hand, is the programme where we have been able to enjoy the palindromes created by Heikura, Simo Frangén, and Jyrki Liikka. The most recent related publication is the ‘ABCBA book. Alivaltiosihteerin palindromiopas’ (2019), written with Simo Frangén. We can also marvel at Heikura’s linguistic acrobatics in his hilarious comic strips and song lyrics.
Language and culture are closely tied to one another. A living language is the indispensable platform on which a living culture can grow. Heikura’s use of versatile media and the accessibility of his work are prime examples of how public education and cultural goals can be promoted.
Dancer, choreographer Ismo-Pekka Heikinheimo
Ismo-Pekka Heikinheimo, dancer and choreographer, is known for his artistic courage and groundbreaking collaborations with the visual arts. The idiosyncratic language of movement of his choreographies is created in interaction with architecture or the purpose-built performance environment. As a result, the dance seems to grow organically from the impulses created by the environment. In the series Anybody’s Architecture (2017 – 2019), the solo dancers investigate their relationship with the space in carefully selected architectural locations, which can be historical, monumental spaces as well as brand-new buildings. The impressively energetic and even feral expression is not only a value in itself; it is a way of confronting ever-changing environments in a bodily way, and making artwork analysis via the physical means of dance.
Heikinheimo graduated as a dancer from the London Contemporary Dance School in 1989, and as a Master of Arts from the Aalto University School of Arts and Design in 2014. His more than 50 creations have been performed in various countries around the world. From 1996 to 2001, Heikinheimo was a lecturer of modern dance at the Theatre Academy in Helsinki. He is the founder of the popular Jyväskylä Dance Festival. Currently, he is the artistic director of the Ismo Dance Company.