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Knutte and Gzim

I live in the municipality of Taeby (Täby), which is one of the northern municipalities in the Stockholm region. Around Taeby, there are several publically organised several art sculptures, statues and monuments. One of them is based in the area of Taeby shopping mall (Täby centrum) and called “Gzim and the frozen lake” (Gzim och den frusna sjön). In this post, my ambition was to write about why I find this statue more interesting compared to many other ones in the region. 

The statue of a sitting boy with hands on his mouth was made by Knutte Wester, famous in Sweden for his art about children affected by wars and conflict zones. During the end of the 1990s, as the war in Kosovo was going on and the overall unstable and hostile situation in Serbia was taking place, a large number of  Kosovo Albanians were searching for refugee and protection in order to escape crimes, killings and other atrocities committed by the Yugoslav (Serbian) army and police forces.

At the end of the 1990s, Sweden participated in a UNHCR action by evacuating around 3600 Kosovo Albanians and offering them protection in different facilities around the country. Many other Albanians came to Sweden from other parts of Europe where they were seeking asylum status since the Swedish government at the time was more open and willing to help refugees and asylum-seekers in general. Among those who came via Norway after being rejected was Gzim Dervishi, who met Knutte at one refugee facility in Boliden, part of the Skellefteao (Skellefteå) municipality. 

“Gzim and the frozen lake” near Taeby shopping mall

Being among refugees was one of Knutte’s art project since he wanted to focus on children who have grown up in war zones and conflict-based traumas. According to several sources, Knutte established a closer relationship with Gzim who, before coming to Sweden, had already been in other camps in Europe. After, among other things witnessing a massacre,  Gzim was glad about being in northern Sweden in Skellefeao area and dreamed about becoming a football player. In Boliden camp, Gzim learned to talk Swedish, with a northern accent, with the help of Knutte, whom Gzim often visited in his art studio. 

One day in the winter of 2003, Gzim asked Knutte if they could go to a nearby lake because Gzim wanted to tell him something special. After coming to a lake, they sat down on a bench near a frozen lake. During that moment, Gzim informed Knutte that his family had their asylum application rejected and that they would be deported to Kosovo. Gzim started crying and Knutte experienced it that “just as the lake was frozen, the boy’s dreams got frozen”.  

This moment became unforgettable for Knutte, who eight years later decided to make a sculpture about it: 

“It is not a sculpture of a person, but a memory of history that the time has transformed into a metaphor. At the time when the sculpture was shaped, the boy had already moved away and went further in life. But now there were other people, other benches and other lakes that had frozen to ice”. 

The statue was created by Knutte in 2012 and originally placed in the city of Vaesteraos (Västerås). A second statue was later placed in Skellefetao (Skellefteå) and the third one came to Taeby in 2012. 

Knutte and Gzim met also in 2012 each other later in Kosovo, when Gzim was 17. During their meeting, they had to communicate by using English since Gzim could not speak Swedish as good enough as during his early childhood. And before that, a movie about Gzim was made in cooperation with Knutte. 

Another interesting story about Gzim and his statue is the one I read in the local newspaper Mitt i Täby (In the middle of Taeby). Here, one can read about a senior resident Ingrid Wolf and how the newspaper reported about her special hobby – needling beanies for Gzim. 

The article’s title is “Ingrid does not want the boy to freeze”, where one can read about how Ingrid is making a new beanie for every week. in the article Ingrid states that: 

“I am needling during several evenings per week and I have several beanies at home, which is good because the beanies are placed during one to four days. After that, somebody takes them down and for me, it is a way to keep on.” 

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