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CULTURE

Malmö gets sucked in to world of comics

The Local's Charlotte Webb sits down with World of Comics festival co-ordinator, Caroline Lund, to talk masks and multiculturalism in Malmö.

Malmö gets sucked in to world of comics

A man eats eels from a mystery lake and goes quietly mad. Two little girls named Shamsa and Dana shack up with a goat, an eagle and a giant turtle on an enchanted island. Swedish couple Johan and Joanna try to patch up their ailing marriage by renovating a dilapidated house in Portugal.

These are just some of the weird and wonderful cartooned stories on offer in this year’s masquerade-themed “World of Comics” festival in Malmö, southern Sweden.

How did ‘In the World of Comics’ (‘I Seriernas Värld’) get started? What would you describe as the purpose of the festival?

The festival got started ten years ago as a youth and children’s festival and has been run on a biennial basis ever since. Last year’s focus was on the meeting of East and West. This year, the theme is comics from different parts of the world and from cultures that we normally don’t associate with cartooned series.

To take one example of many, we’re featuring Arabic children’s comics, which will be presented at Malmö city library and at the Rosengård library. This year the festival is larger than ever before, with around 70 events and 23 exhibitions.

We aim to present the wealth of comics which exist in Malmö, to show that Malmö really is the “city of comics”, Sweden and Scandinavia’s metropolis for series. It’s been made possible by the Comics School and Comics Centre and studios in Malmö, C’est Bon (a Malmö-based culture organisation), and by the fact that Seriefrämjandet (the Swedish comic alliance) have their offices in Malmö.

The theme for this year’s festival is ‘Comics Masquerade’ (‘Seriemaskerad’): can you go into this in a little more detail?

We’ve given this year’s festival the title ‘Comics Maquerade’ for two reasons: partly, because masquerades occur in all countries and cultures and we thought it was an exciting concept to explore: what is a mask? What identities and cultural expressions can a mask represent?

Also, the first weekend of the festival coincided with Halloween and All Saints day, when everyone usually dresses up and wanders around in masks. We organised a really fun ”Comics Masquerade” club at Debaser on Halloween, where everyone came dressed as their favourite comic-book character.

How does this year’s festival differ from past years? What can visitors expect?

Loads! This year’s festival is about five times bigger than last year’s, due to the explosion of comic authors active in Malmö, and the desire to exhibit what’s been created and to interact with an audience. Some of the highlights were the seminars and workshops held at the Comics School (Serieskolan) and Form and Design Center by two of our international guests, Sharad Sharma from India and Zeina Abirached from Lebanon/Paris.

What can the festival offer to people who aren’t hard-core comic fans?

Visitors to the festival can experience an introduction to cartooned series through a varied and interesting selection of exhibitions on display throughout the city. There have also been a variety of participatory workshops and seminars with creators, where people could create their own cartooned series.

‘In the World of Comics’ continues until November 22nd

For more information, visit www.isv.se.

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FAMILY

Five Swedish children’s songs international parents will inevitably have to learn

You can't hide, and you can't even run. Sooner or later, even international parents will learn these Swedish children's songs. You may as well start now.

Five Swedish children's songs international parents will inevitably have to learn

Babblarnas vaggvisa

“Kom lilla du, kudden väntar nu. Inte läsa mer, Babba, dags att lägga sig.”

Come little one, the pillow awaits. No more reading, Babba, it’s time to go to bed – this repetitive modern lullaby is deceptively simple and soothing, loved and hated in equal measure by parents in Sweden. 

Loved, because it puts the most energetic of babies to sleep. Hated, because afterwards, you’ll be lying there in the dark in your own bed, the lyrics playing softly but insistently on repeat in your head. When you finally remember the order of the characters and their pre-bedtime activities (hint: it’s Babba [reading], Bibbi [listening], Bobbo [playing], Dadda [climbing], Diddi [drawing], Doddo [getting up to mischief]), congratulations, you’ve made it as a parent in Sweden.

The characters were originally created in the 1980s to facilitate children’s language development, but they got a rebirth in the 2000s with a television series for SVT and several new songs. Your children will be able to name them all and they will expect you to do the same. Who knew parenthood was this joyous.

Ekorrn satt i granen

Alice Tegnér is a name you need to know, because she’s the woman who’s to thank or blame for most of the Swedish children’s musical canon. Born in 1864, she was a music teacher from the town of Karlshamn in southern Sweden and composer of some of the country’s most well-known children’s songs. 

This one is about a squirrel who, just as he was sitting down in a spruce to peel some pine cones, gets startled by the sound of children, falls from his branch and hurts his fluffy tail. That’s it, that’s the plot.

Mors lilla Olle

Another one of Tegnér’s greatest hits, this one tells the story of Olle, who runs into a bear when out picking bilberries. To cut a long story short: he feeds the bilberries to the bear, his mother screams and the bear runs off, Olle gets upset that mummy scared his ostensibly only friend.

It’s based on a true story. In 1850, newspapers wrote about how Jon Ersson, then one year and seven months, met a couple of bear cubs at Sörsjön, Dalarna, and fell asleep next to them in the lingon shrubs. Ersson in his 30s emigrated to Minnesota where he was hit by lightning and died. Luck only lasts so long.

Prästens lilla kråka

Prästens lilla kråka, the priest’s little crow (optionally mormors/farmors lilla kråka – grandma’s little crow, or whoever wants to claim the crow), wanted to go for a ride but no one was around to give her a lift. So she took matters into her own hands, but, presumably lacking a driving licence, she slid THIS way and then she slid THAT way and then she slid DOWN into the ditch. Sung while rocking the child to one side, to the other side and then playfully dropping them to the floor.

It often also makes an appearance as a dance around the Maypole on Midsummer’s Eve. 

Lille katt

Astrid Lindgren is not only one of the world’s most famous children’s authors, she is also behind many of the most well-known Swedish songs for children, featuring her beloved characters.

This one starts off “Lille katt, lille katt, lille söte katta. Vet du att, vet du att, det är mörkt om natta” (little cat, little cat, little sweet cat. Do you know, do you know, it’s dark at night – it rhymes in Swedish), followed by similar verses about other animals and family members. It is sung by Ida, the little sister of prankster Emil in the books and films about Emil of Lönneberga. Jazz musician Georg Riedel composed the music, as well as the music for several other Lindgren movies.

Other famous tunes by Lindgren include Här kommer Pippi Långstrump, Idas sommarvisa, Luffarvisan, Jag är en fattig bonddräng, Mors lilla lathund and Världens bästa Karlsson.

These five songs do not even begin to form an exhaustive list of Sweden’s wide, wide, wide repertoire of children’s songs. Which ones can you not get out of your head? Let us know in the comments below!

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