The most talked about events of early 2017 in Turku that celebrate the centenary of Finland’s independence are Tom of Finland musical, movie and exhibition, world premiere of Die Kalewainen in Pochjola opera as well as 50th anniversary year at the Wäinö Aaltonen Museum of Art

Large-scale events in Turku in 2017

The year comprises large-scale events and special investments in honour of the centenary, the production of which the City of Turku is involved in. Many of the events in the Turku region focus on music and art, including concerts, exhibitions, movies and dance. The city will also participate through projects carried out as part of the everyday operations of different sectors – schools, retirement homes and health care.

‘In terms of culture and art, early 2017 in Turku will strongly feature both real and mythical Finnish male figures, without forgetting the strong female figures of the Kalevala,’ sums up Director of Communication Saara Malila of the City of Turku.

Tom of Finland musical

Touko Laaksonen and his art have been one of the key contributors to the liberation of homosexuals and achieving a more equal status for homosexuals across the world. Tom of Finland is one of Finland’s most internationally known brands, and Laaksonen’s art is unequaled in terms of its cult reputation.

In their day, the flamboyantly exaggerated archetypes of homosexual men represented something that could not even be talked about among the grey masses, but Touko’s drawings gave incentive to dream about it. Viewers who do not speak Finnish are taken into account through the provision of English subtitles.

The musical is directed and choreographed by the internationally experienced musical choreographer Reijä Wäre:

‘The story of the painter, adman, composer and war veteran is also a story about courage, joy and finding oneself – things that provided a magnificent framework for this celebration of music and aesthetics that we will be able to offer to theatre audiences this spring’, says Wäre.


Behind the Scenes: Tom of Finland Movie exhibition


The exhibition about the making of the movie directed by Dome Karukoski takes the viewers behind the scenes of the movie. The exhibition will feature props, costumes, pieces of the set, ‘making of’ photographs and video interviews with the creators.


‘It has been challenging to separate the value of Laaksonen’s art from the provocative imagery of his works, even though it is almost considered presentable these days, being featured in many places from textiles to stamps and museums. However, we must remember to mention that the content of this exhibition is suitable for the whole family,’ states Project Manager Lotta Mujo from WFFC.

50th anniversary year at the Wäinö Aaltonen Museum of Art

The museum is displaying two exhibitions in honour of the anniversary. ‘Wäinö Aaltonen and 100 Years of Independence’ reflects on the image of Finland that has formed through Finnish culture and ethos. ‘Touko Laaksonen – Tom of Finland / Of Music and Men’ explores Laaksonen’s life and being through his letters, photographs and favourite music.

Wäinö Aaltonen was shaped into the hero of the independent Republic of Finland, an illustrator of the newly independent nation. His iconic works – such as the Paavo Nurmi Statue (1924) and the sculpture series Työ ja tulevaisuus (Work and the Future, 1932) in the Session Hall of the Parliament House – were elevated into the ideals of the nation. After the wars, Aaltonen acted as an interpreter of the sentiments of war with his hero statues, also illustrating the rebuilding efforts. Around the same time, Touko Laaksonen was working as a concert pianist and advertisement illustrator in Finland. However, this multi-talented artist was also making a career as an illustrator of homoerotic art in back rooms and through mail order. He became an international star and the gay icon known as Tom of Finland,’ explains Curator Satu Pajarre from the Museum Centre of Turku.

‘These opening exhibitions of the centenary of Finland’s independence are united by their roots in the Turku region and a passion for art. The works of both artists were defined according to the terms of the high culture or subcultures of the era. Within their own respective fields, the artists were creating an image of the ideal human or the ideal body. Through their works, they reflected on human emotions and experiences – regardless of whether this involved refining the spirit, hopes or expressing forbidden sexuality. The two artists were idols of their era who left a permanent mark in the story of Finnish art with their personal touch’, says Pajarre.

World premiere of Die Kalewainen in Pochjola opera

The opera was composed in the 1890s by the German Karl Müller-Berghaus, conductor of the Music Society of Turku, but it was never performed because of its grandiosity. The opera has been included in the programme for the centenary through the joint efforts of a gigantic cooperation network, which includes the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra and Turku Music Festival as well as many organisations and professionals in the media and art industries.

Leif Segerstam will charm the audience as the opera’s conductor, while the roles of the strong mythical men will be interpreted by tenor Christian Juslin (as Achti Lemminkäinen) and baritone Tommi Hakala (as Ilmarinen). Soprano Johanna Rusanen-Kartano will star in the dramatic female lead role of Louchi.

‘At its most stripped down, this is a classic story about rival suitors and revenge, but with a tasteful, highly visual and modern interpretation,’ characterises Managing Director Liisa Ketomäki of the Turku Music Festival.

In addition to six shows performed in German and subtitled in Finnish and Swedish, the opera will also be available as a stream recording for those who are unable to see the show in person.

Tall Ships Races and Europeade included in the centenary festivities in Turku

In the spring and in the summer in particular, the programme will feature large outdoor and public events related to sports, culture and entertainment. Logomo, an event centre and centre for creative economy, will serve as the stage for many of the events, donning a Finland 100-themed look in honour of the centenary.


See centenary events in Turku at

The whole programme for the centenary of Finland’s independence is available at