Finding a missing heritage

Tensta – Stockholm


Husam Abusalem

My journey in this course started with the curiosity of finding a missing heritage. A heritage that is not recognised or acknowledged within the new surroundings that I temporarily reside in. Through casual conversations and meeting new people I ended up in Tensta, which is known – surely not as a heritage site- but as an “utsatta områden” or a place I should keep a distance from. Well, could it be the missing heritage? Let’s find out.

The term “utsatta områden” conjures up an image of segregation, violence and low socio-economic class, and it triggers Islamophobia. However, the research started by raising the question ‘does tensta have cultural heritage value?’ as it shed light on the dilemma of understanding the complexity in the discourse of Heritagisation. Moreover, the idea of the heritagisation of Tensta was discussed in Art and the F-word: Reflections on the browning of Europe, which shed light on Tensta Konsthall’s (2014) project “Tensta Museum: Reports from New Sweden” which reported the condition of Tensta today, as well as describing Tensta as a reflection of the “New Sweden” that hosts a multicultural population with composite identities, both at the same time. Lind describes Tensta as

“an unusually multifaceted and complex place…around nineteen thousand people live in Tensta today, and roughly 90 per cent have a trans-local background… this means that the collective memory of Tensta splits into numerous pieces; it also means that tensions and conflicts erupt around questions of history and heritage” (p.187).

In that sense, it is highly important to study and analyse Tensta and other so-called “utsatta områden” beyond their materiality and physical complexity. In an attempt to de-marginalise Tensta and open it up to the public realm of Stockholm and Sweden. This research will examine Tensta not only as a manifestation of the political narrative, but also as living proof of refugeehood, cross/multiculturalism, and composite heritage which are flourishing in the so-called “utsatta områden”.

Though conflict and tension may occur while questioning heritage, challenging such a unique multicultural space could break the memory limbo, reflect the heritage of the new generation of Sweden and liberate them from the preconceptions of the worth of being heritage and what constitutes the national heritage of Sweden.

Identifying Tensta as a ‘missed’ valuable cross-cultural heritage is one of the motives behind this research. Yet, does the neighbourhood stand as a world heritage site? Does its architecture reflect an outstanding work of humanity? Or, alternatively, it is an outstanding example of architectural standardisation? Are there any other projects that better reflect the standardisation of production in Sweden? Finally, Would this shed lights on the marginalisation of Tensta and promote a better media perception of the neighbourhood, or would it sanitise, exile and objectify the inhabitants of the neighbourhood?