Gallery: Public grabs last chance to see Joala monument before its removal

Members of the public have been flocking to the South Estonian of Viljandi to get the last chance to glimpse a controversial monument to Estonian singer and performer Jaak Joala (1950-2014), ahead of its being torn down.

The installation, which features Joala's likeness, or at least face and hands, bursting out of a pillar which also features flashing lights, a sound function and brass (or similar) information plates, hit trouble even ahead of being unveiled on New Year's eve, as much about the use of funding to erect it as on aesthetic grounds.

ERR correspondent Olev Kenk said that around 60-70 people were congregating at the site at any one time, with individuals coming from as far afield as Tallinn and Tartu and beyond, taking selfies and the like (see gallery).

Local cafes etc. provided refreshments, presumably following coronavirus restrictions (which are milder than those in the capital – ed.).

Viewers were divided, Kenk said, between those who liked the design and thought it should stay put and those who considered it garbage, which ought to be taken down.

The latter group will have their wish granted soon enough, following pressure from local townspeople as well as Joala's widow, Maire Joala.

The monument, or at least Joala's likeness, should be gone by Monday at the latest, if a legal action promised by Maire Joala's lawyers against the Viljandi city government is to be avoided.

This does not mean the installation will be destroyed, necessarily; the developer of Narva's Kreenholm former factory, used for cultural events in pre-coronavirus days, including the Station Narva festival, has offered to take the installation, ERR's online news in Estonian reported Friday.

The installation, which was only unveiled at the end of 2020, was initiated by Viljandi councillor and Isamaa member Harri Juhani Aaltonen and created by Mati Karmin received a mixed reception, as much on the grounds of financial transparency surrounding its development as on aesthetic grounds.

MTÜ Meie Viljandi, the organization behind the development, reportedly received €50,000 in grant money towards the project.

A native of Viljandi, Jaak Joala played flute and also bass guitar in addition to singing; he was a member of two bands, "Kristallid" ("The Crystals") from the mid-1960s and then "Virmalised" ("Northern Lights") from the late 1960s and through the 1970s. He regularly performed in Russia and in the Russian language. After restoration of independence, he appeared on stage frequently with Estonia's other two biggest male singing stars, Tõnis Mägi and Ivo Linna, taking a more behind-the-scenes role in his final years, when he also suffered bouts of illness. He died on September 25 2014, in Tallinn.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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