Roland Svensson in memoriam

The Swedish artist Roland Svensson has passed away, at an age of 93. Roland is a respected well-known person for the inhabitants of St Helena and Tristan da Cunha. From childhood Roland has had an interest in islands and islanders and when he read about the volcano eruption in Tristan in the early 60ies he tried to get in touch with the expatriated Tristanians in UK. Among these he was soon accepted and when the Tristanians returned to their native island in 1961 Roland was the only person onboard who was not a Tristanian or a British civil servant. He has returned to Tristan several times and his art is represented on Tristanian stamps.
Through his visits to Tristan he also got an interest in St Helena. In 1967 he sailed to St Helena and made many friends. In the end his art made it to St Helenian stamps as well.
To the Swedish public Roland Svensson is known for his paintings from the archipelago near Stockholm, but he has travelled extensively and also lived on the Hebridies and in Sierra Leone. During many years Roland Svensson kept a unique diary, small notebooks where he, at the med of the day, made brief comments about the day, accompanied by coloured illustrations. A selection of these was just recently published and there are chapters about the South Atlantic islands here as well. Roland Svensson was not only an artist, he also became an author of many books, among them “Island and people – a visit to Napoleon’s island St Helena”, which is a classic – but only available in Swedish. He also wrote a smaller book about his visit to Tristan, the latter also translated into English. The artist and author was also a very popular presenter of radio programmes where he made vivid descriptions about his observations about the common traces of island people around the world.

Roland Svensson was a valuable and generous source of information and contacts for the two founders of this web site when we first went to St Helena in the beginning of the 90s. We are now members of the recently founded association “The friends of Roland Svensson” and in late August we will go on a cruise into the Stockholm archipelago on the steam boat owned by Roland’s son Torbjörn.

Jan Tuner and John Ekwall

PS The funeral took place on Sunday 7th on Roland’s “second home” the island of Moja – where he had his studio. It was a “light” ceremony for the nearest and dearest. The day before more then 200 made the journey the Norrpada archipelago for a testimonial ceremony lead by his son Captain Torbjorn Svensson. Pictures from an earlier excursion to the outer Stockholm Archipelago can be found here (with Swedish titles).