The Southbank Centre is currently hosting a Moomins exhibition as a part of its wider Nordic Matters season. The exhibition brings the well-loved characters to life by focusing on the characters and the life of their creator Tove Jansson.
For those not in the know the Moomins are hippo-like creatures who exist in a weird and wonderful world and have many adventures and philosophise about the human condition, the world around them and the meaning of life but through beguilingly innocent stories. The characters include Moominpappa, Moominmamma, Moomintroll, Snork Maiden, Little My but many others exist in Moominvalley, a fantastical wondrous place.
The characters found popularity outside Finland in the Fifties when the stories were printed as comic strips in newspapers. In the late 70s/ early 80s there was a stop-motion animation series which scared the heck out of me, and a popular 90s animated TV show that brought the characters worldwide acclaim, and even led to the creation of a theme park in Finland, which my wife, daughter and I will be visiting in the summer.
Over the course of the hour long guided tour I was transported to snowy woods in the night with a full moon and the stars providing the only light whilst we looked for the Groke. I sat in a dark gloomy cave to escape the devastation of the comet. We sat in a tent around a campfire and listened to the crackling of the logs. The guide had said we needed to bring out the inner child and I readily complied. Being a guided tour there were only 12 people including 3 children and this intimacy made the whole experience rather special.
Walking through the various locales you could understand the influence that living in such wondrous landscapes would have had upon the author. The books frequently talk about how the best things in life are free and how a beautiful world benefits everyone.
The exhibition had more than 40 original drawings by Jansson, her paintbrushes and the first Moomin dolls, which were all wonderful to see up so close but the absolute highlight for me was the recreation of the studio in Finland where Tove Jansson wrote and illustrated her comics.
I've been to many exhibitions and shows and this was one of the best in that it was interactive, immersive and presented the subject matter in a fun and relaxed way.
So overall, was the exhibition worth it? For the hour long tour and guided talk into this singular creator- yes it was. The exhibition runs until 23rd April so please do give it a look if its your kind of thing.