​NOT WOODSY, NOT SOUR, NOT BITTER, NOT CHEWY. NOT FATTY, NOT BORING, NOT DUSTY, NOT GAMEY.

The Oslo Rocks team held three Taste Offs of traditional Norwegian meats, whale versus reindeer, to determine the victorious victual and Rudolph reigns supreme.

Our first taste-off was at the fishmarket in Bergen’s famous treehouse district. We tried fresh caught Minke whale steak grilled and served with salad and an A1-type of steak sauce. Nothing fancy, but perfectly grilled to medium rare. The texture of all our Minke selections was typical of a nice sirloin or flank cow steak. The flavor varied by restaurant or market vendor. At the fish market, the Minke steak was juicy and savory, with a hint more salt or brine than we would expect from a cow.

If you’ve never had whale, there is nothing fishy about it – it’s a cow that lived in salt water it’s whole life. Minke whale is the most commonly served whale in Norway, although the whale food market is not what it used to be. Quotas versus kills have gone down in recent years, though whale is still an affordable delicacy in Norway. While there is international controversy over whaling for food or blubber, Norway’s cultural take on whaling for food is no different than North Dakota’s cultural practice of serving bison burgers or filets. The Minke is a respected mammal that is a rich part of Norway’s heritage, and heavy regulations are meant to safeguard both whale populations and the whaling cultural practice.

Also at the fish market, we had our first sampling of reindeer in sausage form. Our Bergen reindeer experience was nothing extraordinary. The sausage was very similar to deer sausage, but significantly less gamey.

In Norway, reindeer are both hunted and raised, but the meat found in restaurants and markets is primarily from raised reindeer. Reindeer is legal for export, unlike whale, but hardly is. That’s shame because reindeer is now listed as one of the most lean and healthy meats on par with fish for benefits from its Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. Reindeer have come under criticism for higher levels of cadmium found in their livers, with some even calling them Radioactive Reindeer (Rudolph’s glowing nose?). However, these criticisms are not much different than mercury levels in some fish – they should be taken seriously, but not to the point of dietary exclusion. The average Norwegian, however, only its 300 grams of reindeer a year.

Bergen Taste-Off: Whale – 1, Reindeer – 0

So the whale steak takes the lead, simply because our first reindeer offering wasn’t exotic by any standards for deer-consuming North Dakotans. Our second taste-off was at Louise Restaurant and Bar at Akker Brygge on the water near the Nobel Peace Center. The whale steak, now served with a homemade béarnaise and a light polenta mash was succulent and savory, perfectly cooked and unforgettable – just the right amount of natural brine which reduces any need for over seasoning. The reindeer, however, now had the opportunity to show it’s diversity. Served as pate with cranberries and cashews, the liver spread was not to everyone’s taste, but for our foodies, it was a perfectly flavored and textured delicacy. So, while in quality and preparation, this taste-off could’ve been a wash, but we’ll give it to reindeer for diversity:

Akker Brygge Taste Off: Whale – 1, Reindeer – 1.

For our final taste off, we head to Nilsen Spiseri, a self-proclaimed traditional Norwegian restaurant minutes walking from Oslo Central Station. We held our final Oslo Rocks team dinner here and all 13 of us had some form of whale, reindeer, or salmon, and washed it all down with toast of traditional Norwegian Aquavit.

The whale at Nilsen, unfortunately, was the least appealing of all our dishes. Served and prepared the same, as a traditional cow steak, this Minke was overcooked and lacked the brininess and succulence of the two previous taste-offs. A disappointing entry in this final round. The reindeer, however, knocked it out of the park. The reindeer flank steak was succulent, savory, perfectly prepared medium rare and smothered in béarnaise with potato and cranberry. There was no similarity to our deer with this steak – if you didn’t know, you would swear you were eating the finest cut beef filet except for the lighter color. And to put the nail in the whale’s coffin, the reindeer also came to us as rich, savory and creamy stew.

Final Taste-Off Verdict: Whale – 1, Reindeer 2

There’s no question you must try both whale and reindeer when visiting Norway. But in our cross-country battle of the delicacies, Rudolph is our red-nosed champion.

WE’RE NOT SO DIFFERENT YOU AND I

BY SABRINA HORNUNG – HPR EDITOR IN CHIEF

It’s been about a week since we returned from Norway. The experience itself was life changing. While Raul and I were there for ten days, the students had a month to immerse themselves in the culture of Oslo and dig their fingers deep into the underground dirt of what makes the city truly unique.

Three people out of 11 had the opportunity to meet up with their Norwegian relatives, while your editor had an opportunity to reunite with her German cousin. Exploring a foreign city with two separate cultural lenses is a very unique experience. Though less than 700 miles from Germany there were similarities but also very unique cultural distinctions, whether it be the national dress, mannerisms, and even social norms.

So a Swede, a German and a North Dakotan walked into a Norwegian bar…no joke.

Yes, our group was the table that would invite those without a seat to sit with us, which is common to us — but almost unheard of in Norway.

Karl, our newest Scandinavian friend, met up with my cousin and me one night and we had a conversation about these distinctions and laughed about these Americans that probably seemed very forward to the locals. Can you imagine a group of forward midwesterners?

The Norway many of us know is what we have heard from our elders. I had visions of intricately knit sweaters, lefse, rosemaling..and a little bit of blackmetal. Blackmetal aside, the things that I associated with Norway were the things that our Norwegian peers’ grandparents were used to.

Some young people we spoke to were astounded when a 30-something American spoke of attending rosemaling (traditional Norwegian rose painting) classes. One acquaintance mentioned that he went to school for avant garde fashion in New York — and when his American host mother suggested he make her a bunad (the traditional Norwegian dress), he was horrified. Why? Because he wanted an American experience and deemed the piece old fashioned.

Though nearly every Norwegian girl is gifted a bunad once they are confirmed, each region has their own distinct costume — complete with beautiful hand crafted intricacies such as Hardanger lace detailing. The Bunad is worn more often than one would think — and it is worn with pride.

At the same time, there’s a subculture that embraces their Viking roots. They have beautiful tattoos of Viking runes and pagan imagery. Two of the employees at a metal club we visited were listening to a contemporary band who played metal versions of Norwegian folk songs — one of its members even played the traditional violin parts — just a lot faster.

America’s youth are also quick to shed pieces of our culture that we deem old fashioned, while others are quick to embrace it. Though it does generate an interesting conversation about what we deem uniquely American. Culturally, what do we embrace and what do we cast aside?

Upon returning to the states I spent some time in my hometown and took my very German grandma to the Stutsman County Fair. She was quick to say, “These carnivals are nothing like the ones back home.”

The carnivals she attended were on the cobblestone streets of a beautiful medieval city situated on the River Rhine. No 4-H exhibits and no livestock barns — not one is above the other, each have their own unique attributes and cultural relevance.

From a cultural perspespective, there is something enjoyable about these nuances that are uniquely American. It’s easy to point out the ironies of what we deem staunchly American culture. Especially with the advent of Trump’s burlesque on “making America great again.” Believe us, there are a lot of ironies and ignorance — it’s OK to point those out too. It was hard to leave Oslo, but then again it’s good to be home in the land of mac ‘n cheese and Levi jeans. Plus, if the Oslo withdrawals get too bad — we may have to have a compare and contrast session in Oslo, Minnesota.

HPR SKIPS ACROSS THE POND FOR OUR FIRST INTERNATIONAL ISSUE

BY SABRINA HORNUNG – HPR EDITOR IN CHIEF

It’s time to let the cat out of the bag. We will be working with ieiMedia, Valley City State University journalism instructor Steve Listopad and eight journalism students from across the nation and Canada. They have been overseas since the end of May. Their intent is to imbed themselves in Norwegian musical and cultural events as part of their “Oslo Rocks!” Project. And Rock it does..On June 12 Raul and I will be skipping across the pond to Oslo Norway to join them.

This particular trip centralizes upon rock journalism. Oslo is home to three international music festivals and is host to multiple music venues. Plus, Oslo Pride will be going on–need we say more?

Rock journalism isn’t the only focus of this trip, stories will be collected surrounding the history, culture, and our deep seeded Norwegian roots–that only prove this wide world isn’t as big as we thought it was. According to norway.org, over 33% of North Dakota is of Norwegian descent and 55% of the Midwestern population claims Norwegian ancestry. Needless to say this pairing is a match made in Valhalla.

For our June 9, 16, 23, and 30 issue we will be publishing the students’ writing, photos, art, and videos. So please be sure to keep your eyes on not only our print editions, but keep an eye on our website as well. Follow our journey on facebook, instagram, and twitter via #oslorocks.

We’ve been researching everything from vikings to rosemaling to blackmetal. Now it’s time to ask our readers–what are your ties to Norway? Please feel free to tweet or instagram @hprfm and let’s open up our line of communication. We would love to hear from you!

In our research we have found many Midwest to Norway connections. Whether it be a North Dakota prairie church disassembled and relocated to a museum across the ocean as a tribute to those who immigrated to the United States, or whether it be an American Lutheran Church located in downtown Oslo (Norway) with strong midwest connections–who we found out just hosted a square dance last week.

Kaitlyn Huss, one of the talented student writers, even connected with a Fargo born DJ, namely DJ Della whose love of electronic music budded and blossomed in the 90s FM rave scene. It’s inspiring to see someone follow their passion and to see it take them around the world.

We have a very intimate connection with Norway in this region. Just look at a North Dakota or Minnesota map. With towns named after Norwegian cities such as Bergan, Rollag and Oslo dotting the prairie it’s not too hard to see where those pioneers came from and to recognize the culture that came with them. Interestingly enough there were publications in the area who published Norwegian and German language publications well past the 1950s.

What is so interesting about our area is those small pockets of culture scattered around our state, who are so adamant about keeping their roots intact. There is a small group of painters who practice rosemaling, that meet up at The Sons of Norway every Monday night to congregate and practice their folk art. Fueled by the sounds of the accordion band who also meet up for practice in the same building.

Rosemaling is a traditional folk art that originated in Norway. Each style of rosemaling–or floral painting is regionally specific and can be distinguished by specific patterns and colors to a trained eye. Ironically there are more rosemalers in the midwest than in Scandinavia. Traditionalists are even known to turn down a commission if a non-traditional color palette is suggested.

The Norwegian culture that we identify with may be the traditions that we have grown up with, whether it be through familial or community ties that have been passed down from as far back as the dawn of statehood or whether it be through a new friend that sat by you in your high school sign language class, it all adds to the complex recipe of our communal melting pot and local flavor.

Endorsements

Now would be the time for us to make our political endorsements, but we must respectfully decline considering one of the City Commission candidates is very near and dear to the heart of the High Plains Reader. Good luck candidates and may the best man or woman win.

INTERNATIONAL DJ RETURNS TO FARGO

BY KAITLYN HUSS

Twenty years ago, Fargo and surrounding communities had become one of the Midwest’s most noted rave hotspots. Local artists such as DJ Sol and venues like Johnson’s Barn helped the scene to flourish. Brainerd, Minnesota native Kristina Dunn, a frequent attendee, found freedom in this space. The sounds of international performers like Bjørk, Kraftwerk and Orbital, Kristina’s favorites of the time, provided the soundtrack to raves across the Midwest. Little did she know that twenty years later, she would provide the same atmosphere for the next generation of electronic music lovers.

Kristina found her way to Fargo by 1996. While in the Midwest, Kristina studied Liberal Arts and Fashion at Minnesota State University of Moorhead, but left in 1999 for Los Angeles to chase bigger dreams. “When I was there, there was a lot of punk rock going on. It was kind of like the ska-punk scene together, I don’t really know what to call it, but all these really cool indie bands were playing in basements and houses in North Fargo. So it was pretty cool.”

In Fargo she fell in love with the rave scene and the people that came with it. During this time Kristina and friends regularly danced at Johnson’s Barn as well as different venues and various house parties around the Fargo-Moorhead area. “We had huge names (DJs) coming from San Francisco and Canada and Chicago, and then we used to go down to Minneapolis where all the huge raves were, like DBS1 parties,” she said.

Once in LA, Kristina continued to be active in the electronic music scene. She attended clubs and warehouse parties there and fed her craving to dance. American artists, Mark Farina and DJ Heather inspired Kristina to become a DJ, and with a friend’s urging, she purchased a turntable in 2002. DJ Della was born.

Love took DJ Della to Norway three years later, and she has been there ever since working on her craft. Now a full time DJ, she is a resident at the clubs Dattera til Hagen and Jæger. She describes Oslo’s rave scene as, “very strong” but “more of a controlled club environment.” Until recently, raves were commonly held outside. When a few young party-goers overdosed on club drugs, all of that changed. Now the parties are monitored and held inside. Fortunately, Della believes Oslo has two of the best clubs in the world; The Villa and Jæger. Where she once found freedom dancing, Della now takes great pride in conducting the dance floor as a maestro would her orchestra.

Della was selected to kick off a new series just launched at Jæger on Saturday, June 4, dubbed “Jæger Mix” and was intended to showcase resident artists in Oslo. There she accompanied De Fantaskitske To, and mesmerized throngs of people with her vocal stylings.

This summer DJ Della is set to tour in the United States, beginning in Chicago, Illinois at Gramaphone Records on June 11th. After kicking off her tour in Illinois, Della will hit up Milwaukee and a few places in Minnesota and California. DJ Della hasn’t set a date in Fargo but plans to in early July.

Reflecting on her time in Fargo and looking ahead to her trip to the States, she remarked, “Fargo had a really big stamp on electronic music and dance music and rave culture in the Midwest for sure. I don’t know if it’s really credited for that, but I know that it was like something incredibly special and everyone was very dedicated to what used to go on there. And it’s developed me into the DJ I am today. And now I’m doing this full time. It’s like the love of my life.”

Della still keeps in contact with many old friends from the scene. “It’s pretty awesome and, you know, if it wasn’t for Fargo and those amazing people that [I was] surrounded by, I wouldn’t be here today. There’s something really special about Fargo”.

FORMER NAZI BUNKER NOW SERVES AS LEARNING TOOL

BY NICOLE GARDNER

In the years since the end of WWII, little has ever been recognized in history books about one of the most important places in Nazi-occupied Europe: Norway. The Norwegians themselves don’t often acknowledge it, since it is collectively seen as a glaring blemish on Norwegian history, and justifiably so.

What is now The Norwegian Center for Studies of Holocaust and Religious Minorities, used to be the home of a man with a name now synonymous with being a traitor. In fact, after the execution of Vidkun Quisling the Oxford English Dictionary added his name and defined it as “a person cooperating with an occupying enemy force; a collaborator; a traitor” .

Much of the world is unaware that there still stands a once fully functioning Nazi bunker beneath his Oslo, Norway home.

Tucked away in the Huk Aveny neighborhood stands the former residence of Quisling, a former Nazi. His former home now houses The Norwegian Center for Studies of Holocaust and Religious Minorities to provide information about the Holocaust, and take a peek into Quisling’s life as a Norwegian Nazi.

Henriettae Ieda Borchgrevienk, an archival researcher for the museum, has ties to the house through family, and ties to the then-Norwegian military. Her grandfather was involved in the National Assembly party, which was Quisling’s version of the German Nazi Party. “Once he realized what was going on as far as the Nazi agenda he fled to Scotland due to the fact that Norwegian military officers were being arrested and he became a resistance force man instead,” Borchgrevienk said.

This bunker is not the only one in existence in Norway. In Kristiansand there are numerous bunkers spread along the coastline and even in the forest if one is just wandering around. Those that are on the coast can often be seen from boats. Oslo and Kristiansand are not the only places in Norway with former Nazi Bunkers.

The Germans were technologically ahead of their time, and they built Quisling’s bunker with curved walls to better withstand air raids. There was a Norwegian-built air purifier that could sustain the underground fortification for up to a year, and a food storage room. The living room has benches that could be used as a sitting room, hospital beds, or as additional shelves. At the back of the bunker sits Quisling’s office and bedroom with the original artwork still in it, though he used it only once during his time in the house.

He had a hand in sending thousands of Norwegian Jews to their deaths. In 1945 Quisling, then 58, was charged with high treason and, though Norway had abolished capital punishment in 1905, the government reinstated it momentarily for Quisling and his followers, and they were executed by firing squad.

“To see how they treated the Jews is terrible, I thought,” said Donald Gudmensen, a North Dakota native and veteran who served during the 1961 Berlin Crisis. Gudmensen and his family are on a weeklong vacation, meeting Norwegian relatives and touring the homeland.

YOU SHOULD KNOW

For more information on The Norwegian Center for Studies of Holocaust and Religious Minorities visit www.hlsenteret.no.

CAN JESUS COME BACK TO NORWAY?

BY ANGIE PEREZ

Religious affiliation in Norway has been on a steady decline in recent decades. For the first time ever atheists slightly outnumber believers, demonstrating modern society’s move toward secularization.

According to Norway’s Ipsos MMI 2016 social-cultural survey, 39 percent of Norwegians who were asked about their faith considered themselves atheist, 37 percent confirmed to believe in a higher power, while 23 percent were uncertain. Oslo, the capital of Norway, reported the lowest percent of believers in the whole country where the the older demographic had higher number of believers than the youth.

This disinterest in religion might not affect most Norwegians but St. Mark’s Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Oslo has found a modern and creative approach to preach the message of the Christian gospel in a way they hope young people can more easily relate to.

Oddleiv Sandtorv, 31, an artist and member of St. Marks, has devoted 8 years of his life in mission work. Two years ago, Sandtorv and his wife, Debora Sandtorv, a hip hop choreographer, were inspired by their desire to share the good news of “who is Jesus?,” and how he has changed their life and how he can change others’ lives. Now, in 2016 they have successfully toured all over Europe with St. Mark’s mission organization, Jesus Revolution.

“We asked ourselves: how can we make Jesus and the gospel’s message available to the youth, in a way that they can relate to and understand,” Oddleiv said.

Since a little girl, Debora has dreamt of creating her own dance show, and Oddleiv has always had a passion for singing and music. Combining their love for the arts and Jesus they decided to start musical performances and concerts with Jesus Revolution.

“This whole idea came, and we immediately started working. We took some time and prayed about it until we sensed that God was leading us to do this,” Oddleiv said.

For the last few months they have been all over Europe performing their first Jesus Revolution tour, booking shows at Pentecostal and Evangelical churches. Their last stop was in their home church, St. Marks, where they gave a performance Thursday, June 9th.

They started this dream of theirs with no money, resources, or team members, but little by little they started forming a crew of dancers, music producers, multimedia directors and sound technicians.

What makes the performance special, according to Oddleiv, is the narrative that unfolds. They share the gospel through lyrics and simultaneously telling different people’s stories with multimedia on a screen of how their life was before, what kind of a mess they were in, and then how Jesus came into their life and changed.

The mix of music, song, dance and multimedia enhances the performance, and demonstrates the variety of styles used such as EDM, hip hop, house, dubstep, drum step as the dancers dance ballet, tap dancing, floorwork and more.

“We think that we have something that is unique and different from other people, and we hope that many people can be blessed by this.” Oddleiv said.

Besides Oddleiv’s talent on stage he considers himself a preacher more than an entertainer but always dreamt to use music and art that comes with a message.

“I think I’m a preacher first and foremost and I preach through arts… I haven’t heard or seen anyone else that is doing exactly what we are doing, where you have a mix of media, dancing, music and preaching put together,” Oddleiv said.

He and his group have made an album set to come out this summer and are looking to expand their tour to the United States in the future.

“I think people focus more on the well use of religion but don’t search for the relationship with Jesus,” Debora said. “And that’s what we are trying to do – to portray the gospel in a good and relevant way that people are able to relate to and ultimately have a good time.”

OSLO PRIDE MARCHES ON

Oslo Pride 2016 marches on in the wake of the Orlando tragedy, with a message of solidarity and a determination to celebrate acceptance and equality.

“It’s been a couple of very intense days,” Petter Ruud-Johansen, information officer for Oslo Pride 2016, said about the effect the shooting has had on the festival starting this Friday. “It does something to our pride.”

Oslo Pride, running June 17 through June 26, takes place across the Norwegian capital and boasts a diverse array of over 200 events, free of charge, that include art exhibits, musical guests, debates and drag queen makeup classes — a line-up of politics, parades, parties and performances. Many of the events are self-produced by volunteers, which makes Oslo Pride, according to Ruud-Johanson, the largest free Pride festival in Europe.

The police are making their own efforts to keep the 10-day festival safe, with increased visibility and increased invisible operations. There are reportedly no threats to be concerned with and the organizers are also encouraging attendees not to be fearful.

“We are hoping for the opposite effect,” Ruud-Johansen said. “Now is the time to stand up, to show support.” He expressed a hope that this year’s crowd will break records from previous years, to help promote acceptance.

Businesses or organizations can buy a booth at Pride Park where more than 60,000 visitors will wander into the heart of Pride and the center of Oslo. There is also a percentage of beer and food profits that contributes to the Oslo Pride fund. Ticket sales to major events at the Rockefeller Music Hall go into the fund as well. Many performers also volunteer their performances or cut their prices for Oslo Pride. The combination of contributions and public funding from the city of Oslo go to organize a festival that doesn’t put pressure on the pocketbook.

The festival begins with a political debate at club Elsker, which translates to “lover” in English. Before the Orlando event even happened, Oslo Pride planned to feature a panel discussion on current topics including religion and violence. The panel includes two Muslim people, one a Norwegian citizen and one a politician. There has been long-existing support between the LGBT community and the Muslim community in Oslo, something that Ruud-Johansen expects to remain.

A main debate topic this year will be about intersex people, or those born with male and female reproductive organs or chromosomes. Non-consensual surgical procedures have been practiced for many years, but are now coming under scrutiny. People can expect to hear more about the choice being taken away from intersex individuals.

Last week, the LGBT community celebrated the passage of a Norwegian national law that will allow transgender individuals to legally declare their gender without surgery, psychiatric evaluations or forced sterilization. Even so, transgender rights and acceptance will be a hot topic at the debates.

The Norwegian Armed Forces will be represented in the parade, as they have been in previous years, which might be an unfamiliar sight for many Americans. The army is also expected to have an information booth in Pride Park.

The Norwegian Church will take a more visible role in pride this year. Sunday mass will be hosted there, celebrating equality and faith.

The Church voted this year to allow same-sex religious marriages, even though marriage equality for gay couples has been legally recognized since 2009 in Norway. The parade will celebrate such equality victories by marrying three gay couples on floats in the parade procession. The couples were chosen from thousands of applicants. The floats are sponsored by the corporation 7/11, which has 8,600 stores in the U.S. and Canada, and 47,800 more stores spanning the globe.

The parade march takes place on Saturday, June 25 and begins in Grønland, a diverse neighborhood near the center of Oslo. The parade came under some media fire when the parade was moved from the west of Oslo to Grønland in 2010, a move that Ruud-Johansen insists is not a political one.

“When we decided that the parade would start there, some politicians tried to make a political point out of it,” he said. “But it’s not a reaction to anything. The reason we start at Grønland is simple: many LGBTI people live there and work there – our community thrives there.”

Ruud-Johansen said Oslo Pride 2016 is a celebration of equality, solidarity and acceptance. In a time where a global tragedy has shaken the LGBT community to its core, Oslo Pride is showing no signs of slowing down.

The whole festival can be followed on social media: #OsloPride.

MURAL ARTIST CASSIUS FADLABI

BY KAITLYN HUSS

Our interview started in front of a mural that filled the entire side of a building. Brilliant with an electric blue background, the piece featured a Somalian man dressed in a spacesuit. Its creator, Cassius Erixon Fadlabi, posed for a photo in front of it with his arms crossed over his chest and a huge grin spread across his face. He titled it ‘The Sky’s the Limit.’

The mural towers over a playground in an area called Tøyen that Fadlabi explained was occupied primarily by Somali and Pakistani immigrants. Tøyen is known for its multicultural ambiance, stunning botanical gardens and The Munch Museum, which contains the largest collection of Edvard Munch’s work.

We walked to a café not far from the playground after only a few moments under the mural. The coffee shop was like most I have been to in Oslo; clean, shiny and trendy. Fifteen minutes into our discussion, Fadlabi exposed some context in the neighborhood we were in. “This area’s under gentrification. And you see it from this café. So it wasn’t this fancy before. And now what holds it a bit more diverse is that they have subsidized housing. If those disappear, you’ll see no foreigners here.” Leaving the neighborhood, however, is the Munch Museum. The museum that has existed in Tøyen for 53 years will be relocated to the bay area by the opera house in the Bjørvika area. The museum has been steadily seeing an increase in the number of visitors and has outgrown their current space.

Earlier, he had elaborated on racism in Norway, touching on how Somalis are discriminated against in particular. “Oslo is like this: there is a hierarchy of superiority, you know, that goes all the way, even among foreigners themselves. That was basically why I wanted to make a guy from Somalia who looks really cool, like really fly, with a nice haircut and he’s even a spaceman.” When asked if his work was meant to inspire the kids Fadlabi said, “I just got the wall like that and then I made the sketch to be site-specific for that neighborhood, wanted the Somalian kids that live in that neighborhood.”

Fadlabi was born and raised in Sudan. At 19 he attended The Sudan University, studied painting and political science and received his bachelors in political science. That was also around the time that he joined the Democratic Front because he said he felt it was the right thing to do.

Fadlabi explained that ultimately, he had to flee Sudan. “At some point it just because too much and I to leave the country. Because I’d been arrested so many times. And you know, arrested means like kidnapped in a way for like a week or even tortured… but that’s very common. It’s not like that’s just a story, that’s my story. It’s happening now to some people in Sudan.”

However badly Fadlabi wanted to leave Sudan, he found it very hard to get a visa anywhere in Europe and the West. An opportunity for Fadlabi to flee arose shortly after 9/11. “Europeans started doing these workshops to understand Muslim countries.”

He explained, “That was the ticket you know. I applied to a workshop in Germany, and it was called The Language of Colors; where they brought German young guys to meet some Muslim young guys. I wasn’t even Muslim then, but I lied anyway. That was my ticket out of that country.” A few years later rules and regulations had changed in Germany, and Fadlabi knew that if he applied for asylum in Germany he would be sent back to Sudan. He was 26 then, and he made plans to head to Norway to seek asylum.

In Oslo, Fadlabi earned his Masters at The National Academy of the Arts. In his second year at the academy, Fadlabi founded a weekly Monday night gallery exhibition called ‘One Night Only.’ This was a platform that blossomed for artists over the seven years that it existed. No artist, no matter how recognized would have said no to ‘One Night Only’; and at times artists put in their application to have their work shown an entire year in advance.

After growing little by little over the seven years the show ran, the artist-run project was dissolved as it had seemed to plateau. Because of One Night Only’smeticulous documentation, Fadlabi is now in possession of possibly the largest database of young Norwegian artists. He plans to put out a book either this year or next year outlining One Night Only’s exhibitions and detailing the artists that created them.

Fadlabi considers himself to be a visual artist. Although he works primarily as a painter, Fadlabi stated, “I work mostly with projects. I find some subject that I want to research and then I find the right way to talk about it through art.” “When you research the subject, it will basically tell you which medium to use.”

In one of these projects in 2014, Fadlabi and another artist, Lars Cuzner, completed a replica of a human zoo that existed in Norway one hundred years earlier. European Attraction Limited was named for the entertainment company that produced the original exhibition, and cost around 1.7 Norwegian Crowns (over $200,000 USD) to recreate. When asked to describe the exhibition in an interview with The BBC World Service, Lars Cuzner said, “We’re gonna try to recreate something that is very poorly documented; something that has been lost from the collective consciousness here, and try to recreate something that is a monument of misrepresentation, that has had an effect on this society.” The project’s completion coincided with the 100th anniversary of Norway’s constitution, and was funded by Public Art Norway.

For his most recent work, The Sky’s the Limit, Fadlabi was sought out by the local municipality to conceptualize and paint a piece on that particular wall. He was only required to provide a sketch. The process of approval took about four months, but the execution of the brush-painted mural took only about a week.

He fits his work into a barbershop style, or a commercial sign style. “If you go to a barber shop in Lagos and Dakar, you’ll find a chart with heads drawn, and they’re all drawn wrong. Everything is wrong about the head. But you’ll pick the haircut and the barber will give you the haircut and you’ll both agree that yeah, that was it,” Fadlabi said. The style uses distortions to be accurate and descriptive. Fadlabi also added that, “It’s also more free, it’s more jazz.”

Much like the motivation for Fadlabi’s latest mural, he sought artistic influences that he could also identify with. “You know everything is so Eurocentric; art history in Nigeria or Sudan, it’s European art history. So I was trying to find find a parallel one. The oldest recorded one that I could see was the Ethiopian church paintings. But those, they’re not really about capturing the similarity of the image, they’re more about capturing the essence of the image.”

He found parallels in art around the world; earmarked with similarity in pallet and distortions from people who had been displaced because of slavery in places like The United States, The Caribbean, and South America. “They all paint in a very, very similar way; as if they really learn it from somewhere.” After five years of research Fadlabi found work to which he could relate. “That was the whole point, trying to figure out a parallel painting history and not the Eurocentric one.

In the last five years Fadlabi has had work shown in Olso at Kunsthall and The Museum of Contemporary Art among many others. In 2013, Fadlabi and Lars Cuzner held a conference at The Tate Modern in London to discuss ‘European Attraction Limited.’ He has just wrapped up shows in Cologne, Germany at Temporary Gallery and in Cairo, Egypt at The Nile Sunset Annex. Fadlabi has an upcoming performance piece in collaboration with the Munch Museum this October in Oslo, and a solo show this November at The QB Gallery in Oslo. He also has shows coming up this year in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and in Egypt.

IN FOR THE LONG HAUL

A need has developed in the LGBT community recently, both politically and personally. They are looking for solidarity, for a symbol of togetherness and progression in the face of adversity. The Oslo Fagottkor may be the answer, whether they like it or not.

Oslo Fagottkor can be simply explained as a gay men’s choir located in Oslo, Norway, but there is much more to the story. A 12-year history, a World Championship and even a Eurovision performance is only a fraction of this ensemble’s impact on their craft.

Ask around town and the responses one receives are glowing remarks about the choir. They seem to be a source of pride for many Norwegians.

“It is the most fun you’ll have at such an event,” one local fan said.

“Oh, they are so wonderful,” another fan added.

“Aren’t they fantastic,” said an admirer.

Thomas Strandberg, an original member of Oslo Fagottkor, smiles sheepishly at such compliments. He seemed surprised to hear such gracious reviews. Perhaps it’s easy to forget what an outlet Fagottkor has become for the 36 members.

It all started with a small group of friends, late night parties and a piano. They were eager singers whose only outlet growing up was the church choirs or the occasional school play.

“We had the church singing in our blood,” Strandberg explained, “And we needed to process that as grown-ups.”

As the men grew from religious choir kids into adult gay men, they began to distance themselves from the church. In 2004, when the Faggotkor formed, the relations with the Norwegian Church and the LGBT community were strained. Eventually, however, the church politics would catch up to current times and the religious recognition of gay marriage came in 2016.

“Politics are slow, but church politics are ridiculously slow,” Strandberg explained. “I’m just happy the church finally got around to it.”

Strandberg’s nonchalance at the longstanding religious struggle of the LGBT community doesn’t come lightly. The fact is, they’ve been doing church, wedding and funeral performances all along, even Strandberg’s own father’s funeral. The Faggotkor is simply looking forward to adding to their long resume.

“I hope we’ll sing at many gay weddings,” Strandberg said, “Hopefully some of ours.”

They are also looking to defend their Gay World Championship title in 2017. The World Outgames is a sporting and cultural competition hosted by various cities and put together by the gay community. In 2009, the games were held in Copenhagen, where Oslo Faggotkor earned their title of World Champions. The games were cancelled in 2013, but are being planned for Miami next year. Oslo Faggotkor will be there to seek global domination once again.

It’s no easy task, traveling the world and winning competitions. The group consists of a wide range of career-oriented men. There are two doctors, a former parliament member, PR consultants, hair stylists, bureaucrats, and a few teachers. These men all go through the same audition process to join Faggotkor. “You don’t have to prove you’re gay, but you have to prove you can sing,” Strandberg explained. “You have to prove you can carry a tune, carry a tune you haven’t rehearsed, and sing in harmony with the other guys.”

The process to join may be nerve-racking, but it typically isn’t for a short stay in the choir.

“Most people stay for a long time,” Thomas said, “I think most of the guys are in it for the long haul.”

Which may explain the deep camaraderie between the choir members.

“It’s fantastic, these are my best friends,” he said. “We meet each other 140 to 150 days of the year and we have such a great time.”

Oslo Faggotkor has a sense of humor, one that is obviously seen in their onstage performances, especially when the stuffed beaver makes an appearance during the “Circle of Life” number. They don’t take themselves seriously, but they do take the singing seriously. There are also responsibilities placed on Oslo Faggotkor as representatives of the gay community.

Recently, with the hate crime in Orlando, Strandberg explained the choir’s position.

“Now more than ever is the time for us and everybody else to go out in the street and show who we are. If two men kissing can cause such a reaction then we need to kiss more than we ever did,” Strandberg said.

The attack in the United States was taken very personally by Oslo Faggotkor. The choir rededicates the song sung at Strandberg’s father’s funeral to the Orlando victims.

“We are all extremely affected by it,” Strandberg said, “The most important emotion for us about Orlando is that we feel what we do is so much more important. We go on stage now with a completely new sense of motivation. They need to know in Florida that they have a bigger family. Those who died are part of our family.”

This sort of acceptance attitude isn’t a new development for the men. The pride is in the choir’s own name, Oslo Fagottkor. Roughly translated from Norwegian, fagott means “bassoon” in English. Fagottkor was chosen to show their sense of humor and to show pride in being “faggots.”

This unique blend of talent, empathy, humor and political progress is performed eloquently by Oslo Faggotkor. With 12 years, a World Championship and a loyal following under their belts already, Faggotkor is one to watch for the next couple of decades.

PRIDE COMES TO A CLOSE

 

By Amy Venn

The Oslo Pride Parade broke its own record Saturday with 104 organizations, an increase of 34 from the previous record. 30,000-plus individuals participated in the march, and another 30,000-plus lined the streets of downtown Oslo, according to the newspaper Dagbladat. The 2016 Oslo Pride Festival theme was solidarity, and organizers recognized the pain Americans have been feeling since Orlando across Norwegian media.

The 10-day festival celebrating the LGBT communities of the world ended on Sunday after hosting nearly 200 individual events. An evening ‘Rainbow Mass’ closed the ceremony on Sunday and was held at the Oslo Cathedral, which belongs to the Lutheran denomination Church of Norway.

The main attraction, the parade, included floats by all Norwegian political parties, the military, the police, labor and trade unions, advocacy organizations, religious organizations, and corporate sponsors. Three gay couples were married on a float sponsored by 7/11 and the Oslo Fagottkor entertained the crowd in their pink sailor costumes. Black armbands were worn in honor of the Orlando victims. It was a day full of love and acceptance as the parade marched two kilometers from the largely immigrant community of Gronland to the ad hoc Pride Park built in the shadows of the Royal Palace.

Important political topics were discussed by panels at Pride House, the Eldorado Book Store, in front of crowds eager for progress and change, both in and outside the LGBT community. Robert Biedron, the first openly gay elected politician from Eastern Europe, drew an energetic audience early on in the Pride festivities as he discussed his transition from gay activist to elected official.

Pride Park hosted free events from Tuesday through Sunday, including cook-outs, concerts like Swedish rapper Silvana Imam, and drag shows. The park was equipped with over 100 informational booths, shops, bars and food vendors. The park was completely built and torn down by volunteers.