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Get all the insights from Nordic Bridges

08.01.20 | Fréttir
Harbourfront Centre, Nordic Bridges
In 2021 Canada and the Nordics will come together in a major cultural initiative initiated by the Nordic culture ministers, Nordic Bridges. We caught up with Iris Nemani, Chief Programming Officer at Harbourfront Centre, on the first of a series of planned visits to the Nordic countries, to ask her how preparations are going and what to expect in 2021.

Nordic Bridges is a unique cultural initiative between Canada and the eight countries that comprise the Nordic region. It’s an opportunity to have our artists, innovators and thinkers come together and talk about what is important to them in contemporary cultural conversations.


Why is an exchange between Canada and the Nordic region so important?

When we look at the Nordic region and Canada, we have many shared values. Shared values in terms of gender equality, the importance of education, the importance of being democratic countries, importance of freedom of speech and how our shared landscapes affect and inform our artists and our arts practice across the region.


The hope with the initiative is that the bridge will go both ways, and that our artists, producers, thinkers and educators will have the opportunity to share ideas and learn from each other.


Canada is continuing to work on reconciliation with our Indigenous peoples, so I think there’s a lot of learning that we as Canadians, can share with the Nordic region, particularly with regard to the Sámi people of the Nordic region.


In a project like this, there’s also lots of opportunities in terms of digital technology or innovation and sharing practices. For us, the Nordics are known for wellness and happiness, dignity and freedom of speech and I think that this is an opportunity for our artists to come together and have that conversation. And Canadian audiences are interested in that.

The hope with the initiative is that the bridge will go both ways, and that our artists, producers, thinkers and educators will have the opportunity to share ideas and learn from each other.

Iris Nemani, Harbourfront Centre

What can we expect from the year-long programme?

Nordic Bridges as an initiative built on four programmatic pillars. The first one is artistic innovation, where we are hoping that artists will come together and there will be collaboration across the Nordic region and with Canada.


The second is the focus on Indigenous perspectives especially from the North and the Arctic. These will reflect the conversation in Canada, as well as the relationships with Greenland and the Sámi people in the North.


Thirdly there is the idea of accessibility and inclusion that is needed in being sustainable. Sustainability is also addressed in the sense that we’re hoping to have net-zero programming across the country. Meaning that we want to keep the balance between emissions being produced and emissions taken out of the atmosphere.


Finally, we’re looking at resilience and the idea of the rugged landscape of our country and the Nordic region, in terms of the physical geography, but also in relation to the climate crisis. We look to our artists as leaders in shining a light on societal issues. What are they talking about? What is that conversation like?  These are the ideas we hope the pillars will inspire. 


Note: Four key pillars inform Nordic Bridges programming: artistic innovation, accessibility and inclusion, Indigenous perspectives, and resilience.

How do you hope to address sustainability and to include young people in such a wide-ranging initiative?

The climate crisis is an issue that is informing the arts in several ways. Inspired by our youth, whether it’s Greta [red. Thunberg] from the Nordic region, or our Indigenous youth from the North of Canada, I think that the bridge we’re going to build is talking about the need to sustain resources and take actions that support their generation.


We aim to introduce net-zero initiatives across Canada. That’s everything from identifying carbon offsets to ways to increase the tree canopy, nationally.      


What is Harbourfront Centre looking for in the Nordic countries?

This is my first visit to the Nordic region, my first visit to Copenhagen. We’re hoping to build relationships. Relationships with arts organisations and with the Nordic Council of Ministers, who have generously supported this initiative.


This is also a great opportunity to get a sense of place, I think place is really important to understand, when building a cross-country initiative and looking at different proposals. It’s better if we have a sense of what is important in place, whether it’s the architecture, the people or the values of the region. I’m delighted to be here.  


The Nordic region has been an important focus for Canada and especially for us at Harbourfront Centre. We are looking at design, forward-thinking innovation, theatre and dance, especially at theatre for young audiences and the important work that is happening here, as big ideas are being explored. Nordic Bridges is an opportunity for us to share that with Canadian audiences, in particularly our youth.


An important piece to us, as to why it makes sense to build a relation between the Nordic region and Canada, is that we can share and talk about our differences and what we can learn from each other.

What, if any, have been the reactions in Canada so far?

We announced the initiative in September of this year and launched it across the country. We reached out to our arts partners across the country and the response has been overwhelming. Everybody is excited for the opportunity to deepen their relationships with the Nordic region. Interestingly, they’re also are really excited about strengthening the collaboration across Canada.


This will be a national initiative, the first of its kind, so it’s an opportunity for arts organisations from the West, East and North to actually work together on a joint venture. That’s one of the most exciting things that has emerged from the launch of this initiative.

Harbourfront Centre is currently confirming a wide range of presenters in Canada. Once the Canadian presenters have been agreed early in 2020, a great deal of the attention will switch to the Nordics, and decisions on artists and contributors from there to the year-long programme in 2021 will begin.   

Update by 25 June 2020: Nordic Bridges is postponed to 2022

The global impact of COVID-19 has prompted the ministers for culture to postpone Nordic Bridges in Canada by one year. It is now scheduled to start in January 2022. Nordic Bridges is the third joint Nordic cultural initiative by the ministers for culture, and is led by Harbourfront Centre in Toronto. Nordic Bridges seeks to promote interaction and exchanges between Canada and cultural sectors in the Nordic countries.