The annual and often controversial autumn art exhibition known as Høstutstilling has opened in Oslo again, where one piece of art is grabbing particular attention. It’s a bust of Norway’s most troublesome refugee, Mullah Krekar, sculpted from a block of brown goat cheese.
Artist Ole Johan Aandal, age 58, claims his sculpture is meant to reflect the state of Norwegian society. “I’m trying in a strict but fair manner to shake up society,” Aandal told newspaper Aftenposten on Tuesday. He denied the bust of Mullah Krekar, who’s been able to resist deportation orders for years, was meant to be provocative.
“He (Mullah Krekar) reminds me of a mountain birch tree in a storm,” Aandal said. “He stands alone but has refused to leave (Norway). He has many of the original Norwegian traits and should get a Norwegian passport and a big sculpture.”
Aandal bemoans what he suggests is the loss of Norwegians who prided themselves on building a nation with modest means, hard work and simplicity. They’ve been replaced, in Aandal’s view, by the elaborate and expensive buses used by graduating students known as russ, along with “more grass on the roofs of hytter at Hafjell and boats so big in Kragerø that you can’t see the sea.” Now he thinks Krekar looms large in Norway’s collective conscience.
Krekar came to Norway as a refugee and was later allowed to bring his family from Northern Iraq. Krekar violated the terms of his asylum status, however, by traveling back to Iraq and leading a guerrilla group. He’s known as a radical Islamist who’s also been in and out of court after making various threats, also against Erna Solberg before she became prime minister. Norwegian authorities have tried to years to deport him but have been unable to do so because Iraq won’t guarantee that he wouldn’t face the death penalty there. Norway won’t send people back to a county where they may be executed.
Aandal told Aftenposten that his depiction of Krekar in brown cheese is part of a bigger art project that involves a “a national monument” to Krekar, also made of brown cheese and to be erected in the small village of Kyrksæterøra in Trøndelag, where authorities decided that Krekar should be sent while awaiting deportation.