Hei People - Reijo Kela
Have you seen them yet?
A series of three wonderfully wacky public art installations consisting of 646 dressed scarecrow-esque figures made from wood, straw and dirt, by the internationally acclaimed Finnish artist Reijo Kela, appeared magically overnight across north Kent in Gravesham, Medway and Swale in the summer of 2007.
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Over 200 Hei People caused a stir in Shorne, Gravesend, off the A226 on a wheatfield at Barrett’s Folly Farm. In the early hours of the day and late in the evening the motionless army of Hei People appeared morose, even menacing.However, in daylight their countenance brightened up and with the setting of the sun they presented a distinctly jolly and colourful picture. When the wind blew their hay hair and clothes they began to flap rhythmically as if they suddenly sprung into life.
The second installation of the Hei People appeared at Fort Amherst, a Napoleonic Fort overlooking Chatham town centre. The third installation of 400 Hei People took residence near to Cowstead Farm, Isle of Sheppey.
Kela’s work deals with identity, cultural myths and images and the individual as part of a changing society. However, he does not want to provide an answer to what precisely is the idea behind his work, but would rather leave the public free to draw their own conclusions.
The inspiration behind Hei People is Kela’s permanent art installation called ‘The silent people of Kainuu’ aka ‘The Oddity of Highway 5’, in a sparsely populated area in Northern Finland. Over 1000 figures have been standing in a remote field by the motorway since 1994 and a local youth group looks after them changing their outfits twice a year.
This was the first time Kela agreed to bring his People outside Finland on this scale.
A complimentary series of accompanying public events and primary schools educational activities also took place after the first appearance of the Hei People.
The Hei People return 2008
The Hei People returned to Kent in May 2008 to celebrate the FUSE Medway Festival. Over 150 Hei People took residence at Riverside One in Chatham in the late hours of Friday 30th May. Smaller groups appeared on the roof tops and balconies across Medway, including Rochester Castle, the Brook Theatre, the Sunlight Centre in Gillingham and many more.
May 2009 - Hei People win Rouse Kent Public Award
The Hei People win the Rouse Kent Public Art Award. The award was presented by the chairman of the judging panel, writer and broadcaster Janet Street-Porter. Ms Street-Porter said: "The judges were impressed by the way the work engaged the public both in a rural and urban context and combined a sense of magic and mystery and was charming and sinister at the same time, with a feeling of fun."
November 2008 - Hei People win Visual Arts Award
The Hei People won the Medway Culture & Design Visual Arts Award. Reijo Kela received the award at a ceremony in Rochester's Princes Hall.
Have you seen them yet..?
About the Artist
Reijo Kela was born in Finland in 1952. He studied modern dance in Finland and New York, and later became a choreographer and performance artist. He is a highly original pioneer in his field and known for his unorthodox and surprising approach to dance. He has blurred the boundaries between performance and construction art and transferred dance from traditional theatre venues to public places where people flock.
Kela’s work continues to include dance, as well as sculpture, installation art and film.
Further background information about the original ‘Silent People’, inspiration behind the Hei People available at: www.kuutamokeikat.fi/hiljainen/hakemisto.htmphotography by gary weston