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An artist established his own micro-nation of Ladonia in Sweden, including a flag, motto, and departments like Ministry of Procrastination

Magda Origjanska
Photo Credit: Erik Daugaard -CC BY 2.0

Have you ever thought about starting your own country? Regardless of how flaky an idea this may seem, one man has succeeded in establishing his own make-believe concept of a nation under the name of Ladonia.

The nation of Ladonia is found on a rocky beach in the southwest region of Sweden, in a nature preserve several miles northwest of the town of Arild. To reach this micro-nation, one must take a boat, or hike for 45 minutes, until reaching two intriguing artworks–the sculptures Nimis and Arx, witnesses of one man’s tireless effort to express, embody, and share the wonders of his imagination.

In 1980, the artist Lars Vilks began to secretly build the colossal, multi-towered sculpture Nimis on the shore. The area was pretty unreachable and could be seen only from the water, so, for two years, the Swedish authorities were completely unaware of its existence.

However, upon discovering the sculpture, they declared it must be torn down, explaining that as a part of a nature preserve, the structure is harmful and violates the ban on building in the area. The authorities’ stance fired up Vilks who, ignoring their announcement, made a decision to seize power of the area, annexing it from Sweden by declaring it as an independent nation. Ladonia was born, occupying only the area around Vilks’ sculptures, Nimis and Arx.

Swedish artist Lars Vilks (b. 1945) Author: OlofE –CC BY 3.0

Swedish artist Lars Vilks (b. 1945) Author: OlofE –
CC BY 3.0

Known as Sweden’s most infamous sculpture, Nimis is a multi-layered construction of 70 tons of giant driftwood planks, including towers, tunnels, and pathways of dry branches. Observed from afar, the area resembles a massive wooden playground filled with peculiar sculptures set among the lush green forests and frosty waters of the nature preserve. Despite the unusual status of Ladonia, visitors enjoy picnics and walks around the place, and the adventurous even climb the towers, such as the 50-foot Tower of Winds that enchants on the water’s edge.

A few years after erecting Nimis, the eccentric Vilks raised Arx, the second of his notorious Ladonese sculptures. Arx was built of concrete and rocks, resembling a stone book with 352 separate pages that would add to the entire monument. The pages of this sandcastle-like structure are numbered, however. The reader must move with the turning of a single page in order to access what follows. The Arx never succeeded in provoking as strong interest as Nimis did.

the stone-and-concrete sculpture “Arx” by Lars Vilks, located in the micronation Ladonia proclaimed independent from Sweden by Vilks in 1996. Author: Hakan Dahlstrom CC BY 2.0

the stone-and-concrete sculpture “Arx” by Lars Vilks, located in the micronation Ladonia proclaimed independent from Sweden by Vilks in 1996. Author: Hakan Dahlstrom CC BY 2.0

The years of disputes between the artist and the Swedish authorities resulted in outlandish acts as Vilks’ resistance and protection of his artwork. The independent nation of Ladonia was established in 1996. To attract public attention, Vilks humorously spread the news of national incidents, referring to the satirical “Armed Coalition Forces of the Internets” which “declared war” to Ladonia. Moreover, a flag of Ladonia was created, as well as a national motto and several bizarre ministries, including the Ministry of Deeper Mysteries, the Ministry of Procrastination, The Ministry of Folktales, as well as the Ministry of Postcards. The flag is green with a pale outline of the Nordic cross, which also stands on the official flag of Sweden.

Lars Vilks: Arx. Sculpture at the coast of Kullaberg Nature Reserve, Skåne, Sweden. Author: Leif Bolding – CC BY-SA 3.0

Lars Vilks: Arx. Sculpture at the coast of Kullaberg Nature Reserve, Skåne, Sweden. Author: Leif Bolding – CC BY-SA 3.0

Today, Ladonia numbers a citizenship of over 17,000 people who reside outside its borders in accordance with this nation’s free-style nomadic policy. The policy supports a moneyless society in which taxes are payable with a contribution of creative assets by each citizen. Unfortunately, the migrant policies were not clearly enough stated in the application form posted on this micro-nation’s website, and due to this slip-up, on one occasion about 3,000 Pakistanis applied for immigrant status. Despite granting them citizenship (anyone who applies gets it), the Pakistanis realized that it would be impossible to move to Ladonia once they asked for its embassy and further information on the Ladonian citizenship and social policies.

Nimis. Wood sculptures by Vilks at Kullaberg. Author:Sebastian Vidovic CC BY-SA 3.0

Nimis. Wood sculptures by Vilks at Kullaberg. Author:Sebastian Vidovic CC BY-SA 3.0

However, tourists are more than welcome to visit this fairytale land where they can enjoy its most popular sports activity–stone racing, introduced by the Ladonia’s Ministry of Art and Jump.

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In order to outmaneuver the Swedish authorities, Vilks decided to sell Nimis to the eminent world-famous Bulgarian artist Cristo. The sale was verified with a piece of driftwood as a legal document, and it is today considered an artwork in itself, displayed at the Swedish Museum of Sketches.