“I feel I am from Copenhagen,” reads a print designed by Turkish-born design team Seyda and Seda Özçetin. “Immigrant and Fabulous” is another.
The sisters arrived in Denmark four years ago and set up design studio Hamide, where they channel their love for their adopted home into stationary and prints. They want to challenge stereotypes about immigrants and prove how much foreign creatives contribute to the city.
But diving into the city’s creative scene is challenging for a newcomer. When Seyda and Seda applied to renew their Danish residency permits, they were rejected because their studio’s earnings weren’t “significant”. While they await their appeal, they’ve launched the creative professional platform Pomegranate. On November 18, it will host a talk with five immigrants who have flourished in Copenhagen’s creative scene. The Murmur spoke to Seyda and Seda about the inspiration behind the event.
The Murmur: What’s the aim of the talk?
Seyda: We’re presenting five creative entrepreneurs in Copenhagen – people who are simultaneously outsiders and locals. We want to showcase their contribution to Copenhagen’s art scene and promote the value of creative industries, motivated by our own struggles. The immigration office said our business is ‘insignificant’ because they only looked at our profits. But our impact is so much more. You can’t judge the value of a creative product just by looking at the profit. We want to talk about what the underlying value is. We want to look at the great work these people do – in magazines, design and filmmaking – and ask why their contribution is significant. It’s about more than money.
Seda: I think that while people enjoy the creative work produced in this city, they don’t pay enough attention to the people behind it – so we want to shed light on these creatives, tell their stories, and learn about the challenges they face.
TM: How do you hope to challenge stereotypes about immigrants with the talk?
Seyda: ‘Immigrant’ can conjure up images of a non-European who is in Denmark to get welfare. That stereotype is completely false and stirred up by politicians. It is very dangerous and for Denmark’s sake it has to change. Someone from Australia is just as much an immigrant as someone like us from Turkey. An immigrant is somebody who moved from their original country, to another. We should start using the term more neutrally.
Seda: We also believe immigrant entrepreneurs are particularly special, because they create something out of nothing. You travel, observe, and find out about a new place. You connect with the locals. It’s very different than just moving to Denmark to get a job with a known company like Novo Nordisk. You come in and create something that didn’t exist before. These kinds of people should be appreciated.
TM: Why are creative entrepreneurs attracted to Copenhagen?
Seda: I think people are drawn to the relaxed lifestyle. It’s not too fast, and people are not suffocated by their work, or stuck in traffic. Life in Copenhagen gives you the time and motivation to be yourself, and that could be anything. In contrast, people in Turkey’s capital Ankara are unhappy and don’t even realise it because they don’t have time to think.
Seyda: Your average Dane is very design-orientated because they tend to be educated. They really value what you do. We wouldn’t be successful in Ankara, because only a very small class place value on creative products. People would make fun of us for not going after a more lucrative job. There’s no audience for our kind of design work there.
Seda: Danes brand themselves with these values, which is very attractive. I have never heard a Turkish mayor talk about urban design like you do in Copenhagen – it’s amazing that politicians here a vision about design.
Seyda: Plus, it’s a great city for broke creatives! I’ve been so broke while trying to get this business off the ground, and yet I’ve had the best time – I can experience art, concerts and culture within a small budget and there’s so many free events. Without paying anything you can enjoy nature and art and have a very fulfilling life here. It’s a really good playground for creative people.
TM: Why ‘Pomegranate’?
Seyda: It has many meanings for us. Our mother – who we named our design studio after – used to have a pomegranate tree where she grew up in South East Turkey. It represents our Turkish culture, but when I read up about it I realised it is an ‘immigrant’ fruit with a place in almost every kind of culture – Christian, Jewish, Egyptian, Greek. It travelled around the world, it has the ability to adapt to all kinds of geographical conditions. It met new cultures and changed lives and that makes it a perfect symbol. We are immigrants, we are integrated and through our industry we leave a mark on the society we live in, because we are not passive.
Pomegranate #2 / Talk: Immigrant Entrepreneurs within Creative Industries
Verdens kulturhuset, Nørre Allé 7, KBH N 2200
November 18, 17:00 – 20:00
Free event, visit eventbrite to reserve a place.