What is it like to be a kid with Scandinavian background growing up in New York? Do meatballs and midsummer mean as much as we would like to think they do? How do they feel about their cultural background? Wouldn’t you like to find out?
This was something Melinda Martino wondered about, and together with Martina Högberg she founded Scandinavian Stories, a digital storytelling project for children and youth exploring and documenting their Scandinavian identity in an increasingly globalized world.
“My father comes from Honduras, but I was born and grew up in Sweden,” says Melinda Martino. “When I grew up, I never quite felt accepted as a Swede, although I certainly felt like one. I felt questioned because of my name and because of the fact that I was dark. But my cultural identity was always Swedish.”
Martino, who is a freelance communications consultant, writer and translator, worked three years in the Culture and Public Affairs section of the Consulate General of Sweden in New York.
“New York is much more accepting, I felt accepted here right away,” she says. “About a year or so ago, I began exploring this topic with Martina.”
Martina Högberg currently works as a Web editor at the Media Council in Stockholm, but she too, worked at the Consulate General of Sweden in New York. The women are hoping to launch their project in the spring of 2010.
“We will have 10-week long workshops for 30 children and youth ages nine to 15, and we will teach them the process of writing scripts, collecting photos and other material, making movies, using voice over and finally to cut their own movies.”
Digital storytelling first emerged during the early 1990’s as a grassroots movement, helping ordinary people tell their own stories in an emotionally engaging form. A digitally told story usually runs two to five minutes and is combined with still images and music. The idea is to help those who do not have the technical expertise to produce their own personal stories by way of moving images.
“The children will meet twice a week,” Martino continues, “and we will begin the project by discussing what it means to them to be Scandinavian, or to be in some way connected to Scandinavia, and grow up in New York City. We will give the kids digital cameras, if they do not already have them, and teach them how to use them. We hope to shed light on what it means to be Scandinavian in a global world, and that being Scandinavian isn’t just about being blond and blue-eyed. It can be so much more, it can be a feeling of solidarity. It can be something simple—such as when the sun is shining, even if it is still cold outside, most Scandinavians go outside and eat their lunch. Little things like that, you know?”
Scandinavian Stories, when finished, will be shown at www.scandinavianstories.org as well as on YouTube. Martino also hopes to be able to show the stories throughout Scandinavia.
“We still need financial help, since this is a non-profit project. We have received $10,000 from Barbro Oscher’s Pro Suecia foundation, but we need more help. We hope to have computers and other technical equipment donated.”
For more information and how to get involved: www.scandinavianstories.org