This week’s Oulu2026 Cultural Personality is Julian Owusu. He is a dancer, a dance teacher, a provincial artist, a polyglot, a big brother, and when he feels like it, a poet. He is also a physiotherapist.
“I’m already quite big, but when I grow up some more, I’ll probably become something completely different than what I am now.”
How does your life look like and feel now, during these exceptional times?
“It’s almost scary to say it out loud, considering that we live the most chaotic time I’ve experienced in my life, but despite everything, I’m actually doing quite alright. I would be lying if I’d say that this was all due to my own doing, or that I would have just done more than others to be in this situation. I have important people around me, access to my hobbies (mostly) and a safe mind regarding my job, at least for the time being. I am very grateful for these things.
At the same time, I am reminded every day about how we are treating our planet and what are the consequences of that. I am also reminded how black and brown people around the world face violence every day, how our democratic system is not self-evident and how people that I love have to think how they can feed their families, as this exceptional situation continues. Obviously, I’m not immune to this world where I live, and that probably best reflects this situation: many, also contradictory, things are happening simultaneously. Beside big thoughts and emotions, there has also been a beautiful autumn, washing laundry, online meetings, dance, everyday food, gourmet food and many cups of tea.”
How does Oulu look like through your eyes right now?
“Oulu reveals completely different sides of itself to me on different days. Right now, Oulu appears to be brooding. Many things are halted, but at the same time foundations for new things are being built. As an optimist, I believe that despite the global crisis, we will see also some wonderful things develop in the long run. After all, Oulu is the city of innovations. This is not because we would have been smarter than others, but because maybe we have had a greater need for innovations than other areas. At the moment the need seems to be big, and so seems to be the reaction of the cultural sector.”
Oulu is bidding for the title of European Capital of Culture (ECoC). What makes our region the best candidate for the title?
“In my opinion, culture is not only about the arts and events. Essentially, culture is everything that we create simply by being and living together. I moved to Oulu to study in 2006, and the biggest reason that I decided to stay and live here was the community, which welcomed me. A vibrant city culture creates space for citizens to be a part of the city. I get constantly baffled by how much the cultural sector is doing, partially with very scarce resources. Amazing things are being created despite restrictive structures. In the European Capital of Culture project, I am most interested in what actions we will see before 2026, and also what we will see after that. I can see that the ECoC as an idea has already made the residents of Oulu realize that culture is a part of their lives, not something that is only produced by some distant operator. The city culture of Oulu is what Ouluians make of it together, and we will certainly see a comprehensive sampling of this in 2026.”
Send your regards to the Oulu of 2026, when we are the European Capital of Culture
“The European Capital of Culture, Oulu, reflects all of its residents, and that’s pretty awesome! Congratulations!”
Dancer Julian Owusu, photographed in Oulu by Janne-Pekka Manninen