Eija Ahvo: Surrendering to the process of learning is always worth it
Uniarts Helsinki’s Alum of 2021 selected from the Theatre Academy is artist Eija Ahvo.
Becoming professionally trained as an actor was self-evident for Eija Ahvo. Learning new things and education are a constant part of the daily life of this actress and singer.
“When you surrender yourself to education and say yes to wanting to learn more, you can achieve flow state. It takes you to this incredible, fun adventure, and even you yourself don’t know the final destination when you first get started,” she says.
Eija Ahvo shows around a rocky forest that she currently uses as her work space.
“I take people who want to learn how to speak and sing on top of a rock. In nature, our voice acts in a different way, and if we want to learn more about our own voice, it’s beneficial to hear how our voice works when surrounded by nature,” she notes.
She finds that forests and nature in general are places that constantly feed creativity with something new.
“It’s interesting to listen to the sounds of a forest. Even when it’s quiet, it simultaneously sighs, hisses and rustles. It’s very fulfilling. It actually kind of resembles the way that dreams work,” Eija Ahvo contemplates.
Joy of learning
Eija Ahvo finds that a person’s relationship with learning and creativity is shaped from very early on.
The values and attitudes that prevail in our childhood home steer us to a certain direction. Ahvo believes that even as children, we learn a lot about people and their behaviour – we learn by mimicking.
For Ahvo, pursuing a career as an artist was in no way crystal clear as a child. Instead, she dreamed of the profession of a kindergarten teacher. Making music has always had a strong presence in her life, however.
“I believe that even if my path of becoming an actress and a singer had been different than it was, I still would have eventually ended up being a performer.
Thanks to a happy coincidence, Ahvo first got a job in a theatre, and then after a few years of working, she was admitted as a student at the Finnish Theatre School.
“There was no question about whether I wanted to receive formal acting training even though I was already working for a theatre. The school was the absolute best school of life.”
Her message for those who are thinking about studies is: “Pursue studies with a spirit of joy. You will get to study and explore new things with people who are specialised in the field.”
Ahvo also believes that professionally educated artists have the opportunity to make an impact on the position of art.
“Formal training in the field opens up possibilities to see what the work is like in real life. There is a definite need for more defenders of artists’ rights. I believe that we need each and every new actor, because they are the change that drives art forward.”
Be human to another human
As an educator, Eija Ahvo has noticed that work requires a bit of selfishness. People must give room for their personal creativity to avoid losing it altogether.
“Creativity makes us human. Interaction and being present are the most important things in education. Be human to another human. If I’m given the chance to help, give thanks or encourage other people, I do exactly that,” she lists her principles.
Eija Ahvo is also well-known for her work as a Unicef Goodwill Ambassador. She still actively visits Finnish schools and talks about her international experiences and children’s rights.
“That’s something that’s very important to me. It’s wonderful that children get to learn to understand international aspects at school through their plays and games, for example. My message is that even if the crisis is across the world, we need to pay attention to it.”
She has travelled abroad four times in her role as a Unicef ambassador, a title that she has had for over 30 years.
“These trips have been meaningful and eye-opening, but visits to schools in Finland are the main thing for me. At the last time, I visited Sámi schools in Lapland, and during the visits, I, too, learned a lot.”
Equality is still not a reality everywhere
When Eija Ahvo talks, the words creativity, learning and equality come up frequently. They are often said in the same context. For example, she hopes that the Finnish acting training and the professional field of acting become a lot more multicultural, which would simultaneously make it a lot more equal, too.
“We have to think of strategies that promote all people’s equal opportunity to receive education and pursue acting.”
When returning to the topic of Eija Ahvo’s work space – the forest – she reminds that nature can also serve as an equaliser.
“It’s everyone’s privilege to get to be in nature and experience it. Nature helps all of us make better decisions.”
The title of Alum of the Year is awarded each year to a few alumni of Uniarts Helsinki who have highlighted the unique value and role of art and artist education in an exemplary manner through their work.