Speech by Alice Bah Kuhnke at the Museums in Times of Migration and Mobility conference
Malmö, 25 May 2016.
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Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,
I am honoured to be here in Malmö and to have the opportunity to address you all before you start this conference. From the government's point of view this conference is something that we have impatiently awaited for a long time. Today we start a cross-sector initiative concerning a momentous issue of our time.
It is quite obvious that this conference, which will be the scientific outset for what is planned to be a museum of migration, is held here in Malmö and that the initiative is taken by the City of Malmö. Malmö is - and now I risk to offend someone - Sweden's gateway to the rest of the world. For a long time Malmö has welcomed people from all over the world. It is a young and vibrant city that in no way pretend that the future doesn´t hold any challenges or difficulties.
Quite the opposite; in a time of radical change, possibilities ar identified and implemented in a quite impressive speed. This was not at least shown during last year when Sweden welcomed 163 000 refugees to Sweden. In many regions, and especially the Malmö region the systems were stretched to their limits.
I am proud of what many Swedes have done and are doing for all the people fleeing war and persecution. Even though the needs are immense, Sweden as a small country has been able to offer many refugees safety and shelter and maybe some peace of mind. Finally they might feel safe. But are they at home? No, that is something different.
Home is a place to leave and a place to come back to. Home is where you keep your most loved objects and were you feel safe with your loved ones. A home bears our memories and it is a place to rest and feel safe.
The Swedish author Viveka Sjögren explains this in an exquisite and beautiful way in her children's book "Om du skulle fråga Micha" (If you would ask Micha). With colourful pictures and few words she gives the reader a nuanced story of fleeing and finding a new home, and she does it from a child's perspective. How a piece of torn wallpaper, still bearing the smell of the old home, becomes the most precious belonging to someone who has no other choice than to create a new home, this time starting from nothing.
But of course, no one comes from nothing. We all hold cultural assets that make us who we are. Millions of Swedes have their roots in other countries than Sweden. A museum that gathers all the different aspect of migration is therefore something that will be of importance for all citizens of Sweden.
The idea of creating a museum, an independent institution with various types of missions with migration as the main theme will be an important step to actually recognize migration as a major part of Swedish history and cultural heritage. A museum has the ability to seize the different aspects of the past and present and be relevant in many ways. If this becomes reality in Malmö it will be the first of its kind in Europe. And for me as a politician it would be an important step on the road to build a more inclusive society.
But it is not my task as a politician to get involved in details about which aspects should be reflected, no, that is something that should grow in a continuous dialogue, with no political interference. Museums are and shall remain knowledge institutions. We sometimes see small tendencies of politicians, also on local level, who make comments on what is shown in museums or who like to dictate how sensitive topics connected to identity or cultural heritage should be approached. This is not acceptable in any way.
So dear friends, I will not stay for this conference, but I urge you to use this unique opportunity, when we have the pick of the researchers on migration issues on one place, to put your heads together and use all your brilliance to create something unprecedented. Grasp this opportunity.
Thank you and good luck!