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A hotbed for cultural metamorphosis



MOTSTRØMS Deep Ecology Festival celebrates life’s ongoing transformations, life’s unquenchable rebirthing and regeneration even in the midst of the planet’s sixth mass extinction. The timing for the festival was not imposed by us but rose right from the river. Early November is when Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) return from the ocean to spawn again right here amongst us, right in the heart of our capital, right here in the country where official government policy declares industrial salmon farming a part of national identity. Our Akerselva River was declared clinically dead in 2011, after a 6,000 liter chlorine accident killed even the microbes in the waters. It wasn’t the first time the river was battered heavily by human presence. An early artery of Norway’s industrialization, Akerselva was once described, by early 20th century poet Oscar Braaten, as a “grey and yellow dirty river that drifted slowly and lazily through the city and polluted people’s air.” 


Perceptions of human participation with the more-than-human commonwealth of life have been changing over time, and our river has done what water does: she has reflected every story of who we are as human beings in relation to the living world. The river’s changing faces over time have been mirrors of our changing narratives, our cosmologies, our actions and inactions. As she has bounced sewage canal and green lung, clinically dead and a spawning site for yet another regeneration of more embodied futures to come, the river has mirrored to us our follies and wisdoms alike.


What does seem to have remained a constant, though, is life’s commitment to rebound even from near-death. Death, it seems, has a hard time prevailing in this self-emerging world. Ever since Alberst Schweitzer, we have known that life does indeed want to live. We have also known that this wanting is not to be written off as a mere poetic pipe dream. It has concrete, regenerative power right here in the midst of the world. Life’s wanting to live manifests itself in the return of salmon, or in the annual spawning of river pearl mussels (perhaps the most long-lived animal on the Scandinavian peninsula). Life’s wanting to live bursts forth every spring into the colors and fragrances and bird cacophonies and children’s laughter which flood the watershed. It articulates itself in humans who come together periodically to reflect on better stories to tell about what it is to be human in so vibrant and bountiful a biosphere.


So what is MOTSTRØMS? It is an annual festival. It happens on the first weekend of November every year. It commemorates losses in the lands and the waters and celebrates ongoing transformations toward more life to come. It is a deep, committed conversation between breathing bodies and the breathing land. It asks how our communities may again be claimed by our water bodies, and how we may again show up to them with care, wonder, commitment, stillness, with thoughts and action. MOSTRØMST invites everyone to come out and participate in what we think of as a hotbed for cultural metamorphosis. All voices are welcome, professional and lay, young and mature, bold and timid, human and more-than-human.

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