In a series of six episodes, the International New Town Institute (INTI), based in Almere, the Netherlands, explores unusual aspects of rapidly developed settlements across Europe. Rachel Keeton reports on the Malmö neighbourhood of Rosengård, a multi-ethnic district and home base of international football star Zlatan Ibrahimović.
Rosengård is a planned district, built in the late 1960s as part of an ambitious housing programme (the ‘Million Programme’), which aimed to increase affordable housing stock. nowadays it is home to more than 20,000 inhabitants – 80 per cent from immigrant backgrounds – and has been consistently defamed by the media as a ‘dangerous ghetto’. Bloody clashes between youth and police in 2009 and 2010 did little to help this image.
But the area is slowly becoming a model for grassroots change. The drömmarnas Hus (‘House of dreams’) is a popular youth project that encourages participation and debate. Teenagers from the programme host a weekly radio broadcast and recently produced an web-TV drama series. Another of Rosengård’s most popular haunts is the Yalla Trappan restaurant, which is staffed by immigrant women who have no formal education and no work experience. The restaurant gives these women the opportunity to break through the isolation they may feel and engage Swedish society. Proposals for a new rail station, plans for densifi cation and ‘urban acupuncture’ ideas are also on the agenda.
Perhaps more than any of these efforts, Ibra’s biography, I Am Zlatan Ibrahimović, has changed the inhabitants’ perception from the inside out. Ibra’s childhood stories (‘The bike got stolen outside of the Rosengård swimming baths and dad went there with his shirt open and sleeves rolled up. He’s the kind of person that says: “no one touches my kids! no one takes their stuff”.’) have made the tough Swede relatable, even heroic. In a district where more than half of the students drop out of high school (as did Ibra himself), the memoir has made reading ‘cool’. The book has sold out almost everywhere. Suddenly, being from Rosengård is becoming hip.