Oslo’s iron roses

A memorial to hope

Oslo's iron roses

Photo: Dimitri Koutsomytis
Roses have been accumulating for almost seven years since the project’s conception.

Tove Andersson

Roses came from all over. When blacksmith Tobbe Malm started his project honoring the 77 who were killed in the bombing and massacre carried out by Anders Behring Breivik on July 22, 2011, the response was immediate.

VG reported as early as January 2012 that 250 roses had been sent in from all over the world, made by blacksmiths and by the friends and families of those who were killed in the attacks.

After seven years, Oslo Cathedral and dean Anne May Grasaas have finally found the perfect place for a memorial. In the days and weeks following the tragedy, the cathedral area was covered in roses, a spontaneous outpouring of support. In 2018, roses of iron, made by people all over the world who found that they shared a bond rooted in empathy will remind us of what happened.

“We want this monument to be a continuation of the amazing rose parades that occurred after the terrorist attack, and all these roses show that support for victims is strong all over the world,” Tone Mørk Karlsrud, an artist who worked with Malm on the initial concept for the memorial, told VG in 2012.
They had planned to unveil the work on the two-year anniversary of the attacks.

Grasaas believes that memorials for July 22 will be important in many places in Norway. After all, the victims were from all over the country. In the capital, the government building itself was also attacked.

“There is no nicer and more beautiful place than at the cathedral, an area people use,” says Grasaas, who also sits on the National Monuments Committee. She suggested that the memorial could be placed by the cathedral where the “sea” of flowers originally gathered people after the tragedy.

Oslo's iron roses

Photo: Tobbe Malm
The roses are made by blacksmiths and by friends and family members of those who were killed. A hammer can be a cathartic tool.

The prime minister at the time, Jens Stoltenberg, urged Norwegians to respond to the terror with more openness and more democracy.

“This is the soul of the iron rose project,” says Malm, who himself was guided by a spontaneous, creative artistic process.

Though strangers sat down in a room together to make the iron roses for the monument, Malm created a space for participation in a conversation about human togetherness. Malm says that he did not guide them; he simply gave them a hammer and taught them how to make a rose.

“The rose is a symbol of love and compassion,” says Malm. “Humans have a natural compulsion to be together and love each other.”

With an incredible 1,000 roses and participants from 25 countries, the plans to construct a public monument in Oslo are finally coming together.

“It was meant to be,” says Malm, who understood the hammer’s power as a cathartic tool.
For the Swedish-born artist, the creative process is a powerful and transformative journey for both the artist and the viewer.

This article originally appeared in the Feb. 23, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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Tove Andersson

Tove Andersson is a freelance journalist who writes about travel and culture. She conducts interviews for the street magazine Oslo while writing poetry and fiction. Jeg heter Navnløs (My name is nameless) was published in 2020. Her website is www.frilanskatalogen.no/frilanstove, and she can be reached at tove.andersson@skrift.no.