Cosmopolitans in Bunad

A journalist from Zambia was interviewed on the crowded Palace square on 17th of May by the Norwegian Broadcasting. He was clad in a full bunad attire, looking smart yet exotic. He had been looking around town, observing the National parade and the folklorical festivity.

However, behind all the Norwegian culture flauting itself on this day, our Zambian reporter noted as special the inclusion of all ethnic backgrounds. In his view the 17th of May celebrations show a truly «comsmopolitan spirit». One may add that he himself was helping cosmpolitize the bunad. And it is interesting to get such observations from a Zambian professional.

And why should it be very different? Of course, times have been and are a` changing. 17th of May in the 1980s probably had a somewhat more stiff attitude to multi-culture in the national parades than the dominant attitude in 2017. Yet, even back then there was a discourse about how nice it is that the «immigrants» are participating. But maybe a Zambian reporter wouldn´t have been that much impressed with the show.

Though certain it is that the Norwegian constitution draws upon the essence of progressive thinking in Europe 200 years ago. And if the times are liberal, there is an inherently liberal constitution there supporting it.

At the same time the festive day was marked by the sudden home coming of Congo-convict Joschua French. The Minister of foreign affairs and Prime Minister Solberg were seen on podiums annonucing this seeming victory for Norwegian diiplomacy and efforts. French, although convicted of undeniable crimes in Congo 8 years ago, is now a free man in Norway. Clemency obtained due to health reasons. Just like that.

It seemed somewhat surreal to get this news on the very 17th of May. And social media were soon simmering with accusations of political propagand and mint coining, especially in the light of this autumn´s parliamentary election. Many were pointing to the Norwegian citizen Okello Akuay Ochalla who for the last two years have been imprisoned in Ethiopia. He is charged with terror charges and inciting political unrest, although the evidence against him is more than dubious. Where is Børge Brende and Ms. Solberg for this prisoner? French undeniably did something very wrong and yet the authorities worked hard to get him off the hook. But for Mr. Okhalla there are few traces of engagement.

In France, Emmanuel Macron soundly beat the far right Marine Le Pen in the May presidential election. By winning he gives hope to those believing in a spirit of cosmopolites, as opposed to provincialists demanding purity of culture and ethnicity. The french age of enlightenment, declaration of Human rights and the susequent republicanism are clear inspirators of the Norwegian constitution. Yet the way one feels, and the social interactions that follow, do not come automatically from any legal foundation.

The French-Okhalla comparison shows that this spirit cannot be taken for granted. After all, the same consititution was there in the 1920s when racism and social-darwinism were politically in vogue in Norway. In any event one may be proud to say that this year, our Zambian reporter blended in with the crowd just nicely. Well done for now, Norway!

-Sheila Parrera