29.01.08

Looking beyond the horizon

“May the Aurora Fund open the way for all to see beyond the horizon!” said Ingibjörg Kristjánsdóttir, Board Chairperson of Aurora, among other things when she opened the meeting at the National Museum of Iceland on 23 January where the first grants of the fund were announced.

“May the Aurora Fund open the way for all to see beyond the horizon!” said Ingibjörg Kristjánsdóttir, Board Chairperson of Aurora, among other things when she opened the meeting at the National Museum of Iceland on 23 January where the first grants of the fund were announced.

The ceremony began with an excellent musical performance by the group Hjaltalín, which performed later in the programme as well, and ended with an enchanting piece performed by violinist Una Sveinbjörnsdóttir.

In her address, Ingibjörg recounted the prelude to the fund’s formation, and closed with the following remarks:

“Just as the four children of the goddess Aurora represent the four cardinal directions north, south, east and west, we are here today to support four projects: two cultural projects in Iceland – one in North Iceland and one in the south – and two development projects in Africa – one in the east and one in the west. Detailed information about the fund and the projects is available on the fund’s website www.aurorafund.is  Before I bring on the Board members, I would like to thank everyone who has played a role with my husband and me to make this project, which is very dear to us, a reality. May the Aurora Fund open the way for all to see beyond the horizon.”

Dozens of well-wishers were present at the ceremony, and the atmosphere was energised! Minister of Education, Þorgerður Katrín Gunnarsdóttir, honoured the gathering with her presence, as did her counterpart from the government of Sierra Leone, Dr. Minkailu Bah. After Dr. Bah accepted a document from Ingibjörg, the Fund’s chairperson, confirming the three-year cooperative project between Aurora and the educational authorities in his home country, he conveyed heartfelt appreciation from his government and his fellow citizens for the gift.

Sigurður Guðmundsson, Iceland’s Medical Director of Health and Board member of Aurora, introduced the Malawi project for guests. In a way, he was on home turf since he worked in Malawi on behalf of the Icelandic International Development Agency in 2007, along with his wife, Sigríður Snæbjörnsdóttir. As no representative from Malawi was on hand to accept the grant from Sigurður, an Icelandic girl, Hekla Sól Kristjánsdóttir, was selected to duly represent Malawi and carried out her responsibility with distinction.

Þórunn Sigurðardóttir, Artistic Director of the Reykjavík Arts Festival and Board member of Aurora, introduced the decision of Aurora’s Board to establish the Kraumur Music Fund to support young musicians. Eldar Ástþórsson, newly appointed managing director of Kraumur, accepted the grand and said that the fund would provide great support for music and musicians in Iceland. The group Hjaltalín conveyed its thanks, and the thanks of young musicians, in its own way ? with selected tones from the far end of the museum’s hall.

Ólafur Ólafsson, one of the Aurora Fund’s two founders and a Board member, presented the grant to Sigurgeir’s Stuffed Bird Collection in Mývatnssveit district. He commented that the entrepreneurial spirit of the family at Ytri-Neslöndum had impressed him, when it took the bold decision to build a home for the bird collection that Sigurgeir Stefánsson left behind after he died in a tragic accident at Mývatn in early winter 1999. Ólafur praised those behind the museum for their determination, courage and vision, as well as their prudence, during the implementation of the project. Pétur Bjarni Gíslason, Sigurgeir’s brother-in-law, was present to accept the grant from Ólafur. He hoped that the grant would make it possible for the museum to open on 1 July next summer.

At the beginning of the ceremony, Ingibjörg Kristjánsdóttir, Board Chairperson of Aurora, made mention of the fund’s name, Aurora, and among other comments said:

“An African once had the task of translating into his language a text that included the concept “hope.” He felt that the translation was particularly difficult because the word “hope” just did not exist in his mother tongue. Time passed and nothing happened when suddenly the man´s face lit up with excitement and he shouted, “To hope is of course to see beyond the horizon!”

It is no coincidence that we chose the name AURORA for the fund that is today announcing its first grants. The name has two meanings:

1.    Aurora is the Roman personification of the dawn. In this manner, Aurora connotes the spiritual value of light and luminosity, the dawn that makes it possible for us to see beyond the horizon where hope resides.

2.    Aurora is related to aurum, which in Latin means gold and is related to the Icelandic words eyrir and aurar. Aurora, therefore, refers to worldly value, to the financial resources that can bring good if the right attitude is in place, and matters properly handled. This is exactly the twofold nature of the fund: To ignite within people NEW HOPE, and strengthen the capacity to do GOOD WORKS.”

Ingibjörg also discussed in her address how it came about that she and her husband, Ólafur, began focusing on Africa and development aid on that continent, and cultural projects in Iceland:

“The idea to actively support development aid in Africa, this magnificent cradle of mankind, arose during trips that Ólafur and I took there and projects we were involved in. It would be difficult not to feel a strong emotional bond with this continent of unbelievable expanses, ever-changing nature and fantastic people.

“When I think of Sierra Leone, I always feel the power that lives within this nation despite all the adversity. I see throngs of people in Freetown, untamed and vibrant lifein a city that never sleeps. Despite a difficult employment situation and a multitude of adversities, the people of Sierra Leone are able to forget the toil of daily life in song and dance. Smiles and laughter are never far away, and it is easy to be enchanted. Ólafur and I have often spoken of how in these trips our spirit fluctuates. It swings from lack of hope, even resentment of the situation, particularly the completely pointless destruction that occurred during the civil way, to exhilaration and excitement over all the possibilities standing before this fantastic continent ? IF the bedrock of society is in order, i.e. health care, education, clean water and transportation. Finally, gladness seeps in because of all the positive things that are being done. And then the big question pops up: ‘What can be done?’

“The idea to support cultural projects in Iceland came about when Ólafur and I decided to support financially Kjartan Ragnarsson and Sigríður M. Guðmundsdóttir in establishing the Icelandic Settlement Centre in Borgarnes. It has been a joy to see how this terrific project of theirs has sown seeds for new, bold ideas, and has demonstrated how short the distance can be between good ideas and reality.”