2-2021 - PLNTY | kulturmagasinet


PLNTY cover text: 1. You shall not belive you are anything


Introduction – cover flap

Aksel Sandemose was born in Nykøbing Mors – the biggest city on the island of Mors – in Limfjorden, Jylland in Denmark. He was born on March 19th in 1899. Han is known as the father of Janteloven (law of jante), where he wrote down 10 (11) social «laws» which express every small-towns social norms and rules. However, these norms can be experienced as a form of tyrannical pressure if one is exposed to them. These social norms and rules are especially applicable if a person in some way behaves or is perceived as «different».

The author and Janteloven is for many melted together the same way as the painter Edvard Munch and «Scream». Who is responsible for the actual origin of Janteloven? Most people (in Norway and Denmark) have some form of relationship with Janteloven, and the small-town mentality is something most Scandinavians can relate to.

For many eccentric artists there lay a story behind every single one, the same is applicable for the case of Sandemose. He grew up as Axel Nielsen, a part of the working class in Jylland, where the dad, Jørgens Nielsen, was a blacksmith. Amalie Jakobsdatter Sandemose, his mother, was a maid. Aksel was the youngest out of his group of nine siblings, where he only finished primary school (seven years). As a young man he took to the sea, where he visited famous places like Newfoundland and Canada, places later used in his writing. His first novel came out in Denmark in 1923 under the name «Fortellinger fra Labrador». Later, his novels «Storm ved Jævndøgn», «Ungdomssynd» og «Mænd fra Atlanteren» in 1924, «Klabavtermanden» in 1927, and «Ross Dane» in 1928.

During the spring of 1930, Aksel moves from Copenhagen to Oslo with his own family, his wife Dagmar Ditlevsen and their three children, where he takes on his mother’s name Sandemose.

His breakthrough novel «A fugitive crossing his tracks» came out in 1933, which covers the story about Espen Arnakke from Jante, who’s mixed up in a murder out of jealousy in Canada. The book is a study of oppression in the phyco-thriller genre, like a lot of his discography. Janteloven is also present here.

Sandemose was also a part of the anti-Nazi group in Norway, where he actively fought against the occupation of Norway. However, due to high risk and danger, he decided to move him and his family to Sweden in 1941. This is where he met Inger Hagerup, with whom he had a previous professional relationship with. He later wrote his second breakthrough novel, «Det svundne er en drøm», in 1944.

Aksel Sandemose is one of the most important authors in Norwegian literature in the 1900th century and was a deserving candidate for the Nobel prize in literature towards the end of the 50s. Sandemose died on August 6th in 1965 in Copenhagen but was buried at Vestre cemetery in Oslo.

How has Janteloven, as part of Norwegian culture, not only defined us, but actively affected the society at the time it was written? More importantly, what does it mean today?

In 2002, Aksels son Jørgen Sandemose, published the biography «Flyktningen» (The Fugitive). This book gave society a peak behind the facade, also while giving a less flattering description of his father, as Sandemose wrote biographically, using family and close friends as sources. This lead to Sandemose destroying his relationships. His son describes him as a man with little sympathy.

Editor in Chief / publisher:
Annicken Dedekam Råge
Art Director:
Annicken Dedekam Råge
Ida Mathisen
Hilde Marstrander
Tommy Olsson
Charlotte Luth
Lars-Erik Christophersen
Mette Torstensen
Dag August S. Dramer
Victoria Vale
Mats Linder
Cover illustrations:
Annicken Dedekam Råge

«Outside the society 3 fingers in your father»

T-shirt art by artist Helene Duckert (b. 1988), from her exhibition «Singly lost, eternally gained» (Ibsen quote), Østfold Art Center, 2021.

photo by Annicken Dedekam Råge

Janteloven / Law of Jante

You’re not to think you are anything special
You’re not to think you are as good as we are
You’re not to think you are smarter than we are
You’re not to convince yourself that you are better than we are
You’re not to think you know more than we do
You’re not to think you are more important than we are
You’re not to think you are good at anything
You’re not to laugh at us
You’re not to think anyone cares about you
You’re not to think you can teach us anything
(Perhaps you don’t think we know a few things about you


1. You’re not to think you are anything special

Elnaz Gargari (b. 1993) was awarded first place in Desingers’ Nest in Copenhagen in 2017 as the first Norwegian fashion designer student ever. This is a highly coveted designers’ competition, where judges were amazed at her work. They spoke highly on her ability to boundlessly deconstruct the border, not only between gender, but also on a geographic level. They saw that her background, a mixture of west and east influence, gave her the ability to interpret from both ends of the world without having to highlighting one or the other. They were also captivated by her personal story on taking the body back from the objectifying glance.
– An exercise in women’s power, Elnaz?

Gargari was raised in Norway but moved to Iran at age 13. She returned to Norway in 2016 to attend Kunsthøgskolen in Oslo (KHIO) for bachelor in fashion design. She had already studied fashion design for two years in Teheran.

– Everything started with me being unsure on what to base my school-final collection on, which is why I started doing some research. I have always been interested in Persian literature, which I believe represents a completely different world. I started looking into the poetic history work of Haft Peykar, «Seven Portraits», which describes a prince who travels through seven universes, in which he meets a princess in each of them. His journey lasts for seven days. It struck me how the focus was only on how pretty the princesses looked, which made me think: «Oh, this is … yes it’s pretty … but is there nothing else you see?»

In this moment the clothing designer had found her inspiration – a story to anchor her creative work into – which would manifest itself into actual garments. Before this she had to dedicate time into the gathering of information on a new topic, «The Male Gaze», where men still have the power of definition over women. The prince, which comes from an even older story, had helped her in a new, but more critical way of thinking in the construction of new garments and designs. She became aware how it’s the prince who tells each story, as well as the one travelling and perceiving. Everything is centered around how the man sees the seven universes, in addition to only convey the women’s physical appearances. So how does a modernized version of the story look like today?
– I became more interested in how the man views women as objects, she says.

«Male Gaze» means and describes how men portray and describes women, in which gives them authority to weaken women to the description of an object. In 1975 and the British feminist, movie-theorist and critic Laura Mulvay established the term «Male Gaze». She based her definition of the term by how women in paintings or literature is mostly viewed from a heterosexual man’s perspective.

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Women in media is not only viewed as passive objects for men’s heterosexual lust. Mulvay’s theory also depicts the women as a spectator, who identifies through the man’s viewpoint. But has nothing changed? Gargari think it has, but also emphasizes that men have become more similar to women is the aspect of body fixation and always showing off one’s attributes.

– This is something we always see: ideals changes second by second, for example when you scroll down Instagram. The more insecure you are, the more you want to meet each beauty ideal. These ideals today are equally as focused on beauty ideals for men, as for women.

What Elnaz Gargari got attention from, was the way she had woven the Easts’ and Wests’ culture together, pinpointing the clear expressions of the outfits, but without highlighting the one or the other culture.

– In the West the beaty standard for women is about showing skin, meanwhile in the East its more about covering it up. But this also contributes to the focus on what one does not see, she explains.

In an art shop in Teheran, Gargari bought an illustrations book, where she uncovered nude photos which had been censured with a black marker. Her main inspiration for the collection comes from a German magazine where a woman was censured. The women stands, holding a poster over her head, while a group of men in suits is watching her.

– The only thing I see is a blue ink dot and under, a pair of bare legs with heels on. It’s obvious that she’s lightly dressed under the blue ink dot. When something is censured you quickly fantasise about what’s under. The pair shoes in return gives off a clear message. I became very interested in what censuring means, and the fact someone decides what we are supposed to se and what not to see. The same phenomenon is happening in the Norwegian media. What they show is carefully chosen to be exposed to the audience. One can never grow tired of this topic.

– How do you think growing up in two such different cultures impacts you?
– I feel like I have a better understanding of things. I can put myself aside in certain situations and view it from an above perspective. What I’ve learned from the most is being a part of both societies. It’s important to see the abuse of religion has become a part of everyday life in Iran – a highly personal matter one shouldn’t build politics from. You buy yourself a book but get it censured on the way home. In this way religion loses its power, which also was the case in Europe when priests sold a place in heaven just to earn money. It was an openness before the revolution in Iran and today more women have education than men.

– Diversity is often built on being multi-cultural, and you say this leads to obtaining a bigger perspective on things. So, what about Janteloven? Is strictly a Norwegian phenomenon?

– Yes. Norway has a safe society. One is not taught to be tough. It is also very apparent in the workplace, for example how one never views oneself as the best, but rather behave in a very «down to earth« way of living. Janteloven – sadly – is more relevant to girls in general and their natural way of being more careful. We thoroughly think it through before taking up too much «space». However, I also see women today has taught each other to fight for our rights, as well as standing up for each other. We must – say that we are something – to oneself and each other.

Annicken Dedekam Råge

Image1: Elnaz Gargari participates in the BLM demonstration in Oslo, 5.6.20. Photo: Elnaz Gargari
Image2: From the KHIO show / Photo: Roger Fosaas
Image3: Photo: Johannes L. F Sunde / fashionshoot