Nobody could argue that Kihnu island doesn’t punch about its weight when it comes to culture. Although only three times the size of Sark and with a population of just 600, the Estonian island in the Gulf of Riga has enjoyed UNESCO designation for its rich intangible heritage since 2003.
In 2017 ArtHouse Jersey hosted a group of student and adult musicians and dancers for a residency culminating in performances at the Société Jersiaise and at three local primary schools where pupils cast aside their inhibitions to join their visitors in music and dance.
Kihnu is a remarkable place – it has its own language and indigenous costume, a matriarchal society and a physical location that defies the usual definition of an island. Before global warming, you could drive there in winter across the ice from the Estonian mainland.
The group’s Jersey residency was organised in collaboration with the Estonian Embassy in London and, apart from providing an insight into an island that few had previously heard about, shone interesting light on some of Jersey’s own cultural challenges, particularly in relation to initiatives to keep alive the Jèrriais language.
It also marked an important step in a cultural partnership which had been launched the previous year when the Estonian Ambassador in London visited Jersey to finalise the appointment of an Honorary Consul for the Channel Islands.
Photos courtesy of Kinhu Cultural Space.