Blue Wood, Black Iron

Seinäjoki kunsthalle, Southern Ostrobothnia, Finland, 2023

For this exhibition in Kunsthalle Seinäjoki, I researched plant dyeing traditions and peasant culture in Seinäjoki and the surrounding area. While touring local museums, examining the textiles on display and learning about the subject, the colours blue and black colours caught my attention. These colours appear in folk costumes and textiles, particularly in connection with a Lutheran revivalist movement, körttiläisyys. Later the colours became symbols of extreme right and nationalist movements, from the Lapua movement in the 1930s to the current “True Finns”. However, where did the colours blue and black come from?

The imagery of the paintings and textile works, and the techniques used, point to the origins of the blue and black dye plants used by the Körrti peasants in the 19th century – indigo (Indigofera tinctoria) and logwood (Haematoxylum campechianum).
Their histories take the viewer to India, the Caribbean and the coasts of Central America, and are linked to pirates, colonialism and slave labour. The works point to these colours as products of global colonial trade but also tell histories of working-class solidarity that transcended national and racial boundaries.

© Sigrid Holmwood