Speech by Minister for Foreign Affairs Timo Soini at the unveiling of the grave memorial for former President Koivisto
Dear Mrs Tellervo Koivisto,
family and friends of Mauno Koivisto,
dear invited guests
Humane and elegant.
Those are the words I would use to describe former President Koivisto’s grave memorial now being unveiled by the prize committee.
Humane and elegant are also fitting words to describe Mauno Koivisto as a person, as well as his life’s work. It is a great honour to be here to remember his central role in developing the society of independent Finland. Koivisto’s funeral in May 2017 demonstrated the fondness Finns had for their former president.
The grave memorial marks the end of a transition period, but is also the start of something new and permanent. The memorials that surround us here at the Hietaniemi Cemetery are symbols of different periods and of their endings. They tell about a person but also about a period in history – and when looking at them, viewers can examine the history of a nation but also their own place in relation to history and the present.
People come to grave memorials to remember unique lives. A memorial must be permanent and timeless. A good memorial leaves space for a wide variety of experiences and memories. From a practical perspective, a memorial must be suitable for laying flowers, and it must fit in with its environment. These characteristics were also required of Koivisto’s memorial.
The Prime Minister's Office announced its competition for the design of the grave memorial for former President Koivisto at the beginning of his year. The competition received 138 submissions. The prize committee’s decision on the winner was clear and unanimous. Artist Perttu Saksa’s work ‘Kartta’ is dignified and easily approachable, without any unnecessary adornments. In this way, too, it is an appropriate depiction of Koivisto himself, his life’s work and his strong convictions. The memorial is being unveiled on the anniversary of Koivisto’s birth, as was the goal.
“Cracks and grooves, the marks we have acquired on our journeys, shape us into who we are,” the artist has said of his work. The work was inspired by a memory of Mauno Koivisto cracking a large rock by drilling holes in it: the idea was that water would flow into the holes and freeze in the winter, cracking the rock.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Mauno Koivisto emboldened us to believe in the future and build it together with determination. He left an imprint on us, as the work ‘Kartta’ now shows in its own, insightful way.
On behalf of the Government, I would like to congratulate the artist and thank those who participated in creating the work. I hope this work finds its place as a symbol of an era and reminds us of the importance of moving forward, even when it leads to cracks.