The Tumpkin's Time (Tiitiäisen aika)

Exhibition based on children’s poetry by Kirsi Kunnas
The Päivälehti Museum, Helsinki, 20 May – 30 October 2022

art objects
contact me

Kirsi Kunnas (1924-2021) was a prolific author and translator, and a versatile cultural influencer. Above all, she was a children's poet and an innovator in children's literature, whose verses have already enchanted several generations of Finns.

As a poet, Kunnas represented the post-war generation of modernists, who felt it was important to find their own poetic language. Her work as a translator led her to writing children's poetry. The English nonsense tradition made her realise that Finnish children's poetry no longer appealed to children: it was hopelessly old-fashioned and moralising. In 1956, Kunnas published her own work of poetry, Tiitiäisen satupuu (“The Tumpkin’s Wonder Tree”). It was a children's book for the new age, full of humour, surprises and play.

Like Kirsi Kunnas' poems, the aim of The Tumpkin’s Time exhibition is to bring joy, surprises and insights to the visitor. The exhibition is also a tribute to the unique life's work of this beloved children's author.

The exhibition is a total installation, based on a strong architectural solution: the biggest object in the middle of the exhibition is the Wonder Tree, which serves as the main exhibition structure, with different flowers, creatures, letters and leaves hanging from its branches. Most important are the verses by Kirsi Kunnas, printed on both sides of every giant leaf.

The characters created by the poet, such as Tiitiäinen (Tumpkin), Mr. Pii Poo, Haitula, numerous giants, trolls, animals, etc., are presented in different forms - physical and digital, printed and animated. All scales are mixed up in this nonsense world, the frog might be much bigger than the house. Visitors are encouraged to play in the exhibition: they can enter the giant’s head through its mouth, rest in the huge nest, go to battle with giant worms, crawl inside the tree trunk, peer through the windows of the house, stand between two mirrors and experience infinity, listen to songs in old-fashioned telephone handsets, build from the big alphabet blocks, and lose themselves in the high grass. Here and there they might meet the poet herself (as a video projection), reading her verses to the exhibition guests.

Sadly, Kirsi Kunnas recently passed away… We have been lucky to meet her, to talk with her and get the exhibition plans confirmed by the poet. After this exhibition is over, it could be held again in another place, for example to celebrate the centenary of the poet’s birth in 2024, or the 70th anniversary of the first edition of the Tumpkin’s Wonder Tree book in 2026.

Visual concept, exhibition architecture and graphic design: Alexander Reichstein

Illustrations by the following artists have been used: Maija Karma, Kristiina Louhi, Karoly Reich, Christel Rönns, Martti Syrjä, Julia Vuori, Pia Westerholm, Silja-Maria Wihersaari

Animation: Tatyana Moshkova
Light: Antti Viirkorpi
Video and sound: Joonas Pirttilä
Computer modelling: Varja Protassova
Props: Kukka-Maaria Heikkinen, Maria Protassova, Alexander Reichstein
Printing and construction work: Mytime Oy
Production: The Päivälehti Museum
Kirsi Kunnas’ family and relatives, WSOY, Yle Arkisto,
Finnish National Gallery, Suomen Kuvalehti

Photos: Ida Pimenoff, Alexander Reichstein