tommy.jensen@sbs.su.se johan.sandstrom@ltu.se

Once a citizen of Kiruna, always …


This blog-post is a mixture between a conventional small piece of text and another musical piece. So the idea is text first and then the music. The song is here, though (for lyrics – scroll down).

There is a saying in Kiruna that carry the meaning that if you are born and raised in Kiruna it leaves a mark on your character that stays with you forever. The geographical location, the people, the wilderness and the mine, influence people’s character in a distinct and unique way. So, people leaving Kiruna stay more or less the same. Kiruna in this sense is something essential, it has a core, at least according to the saying. This story is told by those living in Kiruna as well as the people who have left the town.

There are quite many books and other works that have explored this ‘essence’ – masculinity, working class, Hjalmar Lundbom and the management of LKAB who had visions for the ‘ideal’ town, wilderness and the wild but honest man, the victimized position vis-a-vis the south etc., which offer interesting reads. Stories also circulate (in texts, in oral storytelling) about people moving to Kiruna having trouble to fit in, and there is a continuous debate about ‘who is a genuine Kiruna-citizen’, that in a sense constructs a pecking-order.

We believe that it is hard to overvalue the Kiruna mine’s historical and contemporary significance to all this! The mine is commonly thought of as the reason to why Kiruna exists; and maybe rightly so since LKAB started to build the town when the mine was ‘opened’ (but there have been human settlements in Kiruna far longer back). The mountain and the mine, LKAB:s shaping of the labour process for not only the miners but for the whole ‘worker community’, and its embedding in different power relations, is hard to neglect. At least that is our impression so far.

People stay in Kiruna, and can stay in Kiruna, as long as the mine is there, extracting the iron ore. ‘Inevitable dependency but the possibility to choose to stay’ might be a sentence suitable to depict what we have heard and read about.

But part of the reason for why people, and especially young people, leave Kiruna is because of the mine and the tradition to either directly work for The Company or indirectly work for the many support industries. Young people, as we know, sometime develop other visions for their lives than what the established social order dictates. They want to break free. So they leave, to break free, and most probably they leave for southern parts of Sweden. Many don’t look back – but carry the Kiruna-mark with pride – while some come back, a bit older, more educated, with job experiences. Many of them will work for the mine and The Company. This is a story that we have read about but also heard for ourselves. This is a story about coming home, but the story rarely contains a main character: the mine. The reason for coming home is because of the town and its people, the landscape and the wilderness, the opportunity to take up a lifestyle more connected to the nature. Its a good place to raise children.

But what about the mine? If the mine is so central to Kiruna and the community, then at least the mine has to be part of the reason for coming back, at least indirectly. One grand narrative, as we already wrote above, is that as long as the mine exists, Kiruna exists; its hard to avoid having a relation with, and a dependency to, the mine.

But, surely, there must be people who come back to Kiruna because of their connection to the mine, the mine work, and the (legendary) life style connected to being a mine worker! People that have been, so to speak, marked by the mine in their upbringing and development of character. So far, we have not come across such a story, neither in our conversations nor through reading others works (but we have plenty more to read and more people to meet about the mine and Kiruna, that is for sure). Below is a short text about a person coming back to Kiruna for the sake of the mine. The person has lost his or her job, but instead of trying to find a new one at the current location s/he travel home. Its about trying to break free but ending up fulfilling his or her fate. The song could be located anywhere in time; 2015, 1950 or 1905. In a way, the story is most probably about a man as there are few, and historically even fewer, female mine workers. But it does not have be the case. Further, it is not a tragic story, but a story that portrays hardship and dependency. Therefore it is a blues tune, in a rather up-tempo blues rock style (an evident nod to Jimi Hendrix; no further similarities).

 

Coming back (they say you never leave) 

Text, music, instruments (drums programmed) and vocals: Tommy Jensen

 

Back to the mountain

The village was the same

Back to the mountain

The people was the same

 

Back for the mountain

Lost my job down south

Back for the mountain

But the work has changed

 

Back inside the mountain

Long hours, stunning pace

Back inside the mountain

Gotcha get paid

 

Coming from the past

The mine continues its future

Being in the present

It sticks to its past

It defies everyone who leave

 

Back to the mountain

Its my past, my present, my future

Back to the mountain

It has defined who I am

 

Coming back to the mountain

Coming back to the mountain

Coming back to the mountain

 

 


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