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Rosa Liksom

Rosa Liksom (Anni Ylävaara)
Born January 7, 1958, Ylitornio, Finnish Lapland

Master of Arts (main subject Cultural Anthropology; subsidiary subjects incl. ethnology, folk poetry, aesthetics, Art History, Religion, Finnish Literature) University of Helsinki, 1983
Studies in Universities of Moscow and Copenhagen, 1981-1986

Freelance Artist since 1991
Radio Journalist at Radio City and Reporter for City-lehti newspaper, 1989-1993 (programme deviser, interviews: Suomalaisia unelmia [‘Finnish dreams’])
Barworker, Agricultural Labourer, Shop Assistant and Bakery Assistant, Youth Drop-in Centre, Fleamarketeer at Lepakko, Sauna Boss in Freetown Christiania, Denmark; Agricultural Labourer, Shop Assistant

Photo: Pekka Mustonen
Written by Heta Muurinen
Translated by John Calton

In the realm of academic freedom

When Rosa Liksom began her ethnology studies at the University of Helsinki, she had already several subjects under her belt. She had spent half a year studying Russian in Uppsala and a further six months at the Sirola college studying social welfare.

“I applied for a place to study both ethnology in Helsinki and anthropology in Jyväskylä and got accepted for both. I chose Helsinki,” says Liksom. Her appetite for learning just grew.

“Back then I got to take as many subjects as I liked, and so I did,” Liksom asserts and proceeds to list a breathtaking number of subjects: art history, cultural anthropology, religion, Finnish literature, and then in the Faculty of Political Science sociology, social psychology and social anthropology. Liksom also passed examinations in Latin and Russian. She worked throughout her studies, which meant she barely had time to sit in lectures, but instead did the extensive text-based examinations, involving some 15 to 20 books. Work meant that she didn’t need to take a student loan and there were no grants to be had. On top of the work and study she was active in the student organisation.

Liksom’s studies took her beyond Helsinki’s hallowed portals. After Helsinki she studied in Moscow and then moved directly from the Russian Federation capital to Copenhagen.

“In Copenhagen I got into labour and urban sociology, because they were new and interesting areas.”

When Liksom got back to Finland she studied under Esa Saarinen’s supervision. She’s not ever really stopped studying. Lifelong learning?

“I still attend the basic courses in social anthropology and religion, because I want keep up with developments in the field. An unlimited right to study is one of the expressions of academic freedom from the 1970s and 1980s which Liksom values.

“Only now, when the right to study has been limited, do we understand what an important principle it has been!”

Liksom’s advice for those considering studying is clear:

“First get a broad education and then you can specialise. I resist the thinking that says you should squeeze yourself into a tube of toothpaste for a nice set of academic dentures.”

Rosa Liksom on an island in the China Sea, 2015.​
Rosa Liksom on an island in the China Sea, 2015.​


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