Mogadishu avenue (or where to find black people in Helsinki)

So one thing you notice when you are in Finland is how incredibly white the place is. there are almost no black (or brown) people to be seen. I think when i was in Helsinki for the last time in june 2006 i saw 3 black people in 3 days.

So we brought up this observation over dinner yesterday and were informed that there are lots of black people but that one would need to go to ‘Mogadishu Avenue‘ to actually see them. Mogadishu Avenue, we were told, is the nickname of a street (Meri-Rastilan tie) in the eastern suburb of Meri-Rastila. Apparently the neighborhood (which has inspired a television series of the same name, which was filmed elsewhere, because the actual neighborhood is too tidy to convey the underlying idea of multicultural tension) got this name because it is the primary area of residence of members of the Somali community in Finland.

But then only a mere 20% of the area's population are immigrants (mainly Estonians and Russians though) which seems to be shocking in the Finnish context. So special that according to the international edition of Helsinki Sanomat

… taxi drivers driving through the area still have fun counting the number of dark-skinned faces they see.

But then the taxi driver who drove me back to Helsinki from Meri-Rastilan (because i was stupid enough to take the last outbound metro and there is no obvious other public transport back to the city) didn’t count the number of black skinned faces. instead he did not say a single word during the entire ride (very finnish) and i suspect him of having been a bit drunk (very finnish as well).

In fact the amount of black people in Meri-Rastilan by no means justifies calling the place Mogadishu Avenue. The highest concentration of black people in Helsinki can be observed in the foyer of the Tennispalatsi cinema hall in the center (thanks for the tip Kari-Hans). Earlier tonight it was full with lots of extremely well dressed (compared to the average Finn) Somali teenagers hanging out there. Not sure if any of this (the stylish clothes or the hanging out) was in any way related to Eid Ul-Fitr or if this is where these youngsters usually spend their Friday nights.

photo by: Jukka Ritola taken from this gallery with more pictures from ‘Mogadishu avenue’.
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