How to prevent the court from tearing down your giant driftwood sculpture? Well, you declare it sovereign territory, of course!
This is an interesting one: Nimis is the collective name of a series of wooden sculptures on a beach in Höganäs, Sweden, and also the centre of the Royal Republic of Ladonia, an unrecognised micronation. Ladonia currently has 22.000 citizens from allover the world and a total count of 0 inhabitants. It prides itself on supporting art and the freedom of expression, is tax-free and somewhat eccentric in their own words, as they encourage everyone to participate in the government, but it is not mandatory. As you can imagine, it has quite the interesting history…
The Nimis sculptures were built by Lars Vilks, an eccentric Swedish artist, who spent years collecting driftwood and building his mega-maze on a secluded, rocky beach. He is also the cartoon artist, who drew a caricature of the Islamic prophet Muhammad in 2007 and ended up on Al-Qaeda‘s hitlist for it, so he’s certainly no stranger to controversy. He began building Nimis in 1980 and managed to avoid notice until 1982, when the local authorities demanded that the precarious driftwood mess full of nails with an actual 9-story high tower must be torn down.
Naturally, Vilks didn’t comply, which started a series of legal battles that raged until 2004. In the meantime he continued to expand Nimis, which got burned down by vandals in 1985 and gained international attention. Vilks first tried to sell his work to another artist to prevent the court from demolishing it, but when that didn’t work, he got more creative. Eventually, in 1996, Ladonia was established as an independent nation in an effort to prevent the courts from tearing down Nimis and interfering with the now sovereign territory. The micronation rapidly gained freedom-minded citizens allover the world, particularly after 4000 Pakistanis applied for citizenship in 2002 in the hopes of migrating to a better life, which got a lot of media coverage, but didn’t really help the Pakistanis.
Also, in 2003 Ladonia randomly declared war on Sweden, USA and San Marino.
Over the years Nimis became a popular tourist attraction and the local Höganäs tourist board soon sided with Vilks, because his driftwood extravaganza was attracting tourists to the county. In 2004 the Swedish Supreme court finally declared Nimis safe and Lars Vilks even sued the country for damages to one of his other sculptures, the Omfalos. Because of course, he built two other giant sculptures while he being fined and prosecuted on and off. The Arx is a giant concrete sculpture, located next to Nimis, while the Omfalos, a 1.6m high stone sculpture, was later transported to Stockholm.
Impressions of Nimis
The word Nimis literally translates into too much in Latin. Today the sculpture complex is comprised of several towers and passageways, including the original 9-story tower, and is estimated at about 75ton of driftwood and nails altogether, which is quite an impressive feat and obviously not entirely safe. There are rusty nails and splinters sticking out of everything, but the rawness is part of the vibe and the effect is truly monumental. Although parts of Nimis were destroyed during a hurricane in 2014, it is still huge, so I absolutely recommend seeing it, although getting there is a bit strenuous.
While you’re there make sure to try and find the Ladonian Easter eggs:
- A plaque, which marks the final resting place of Nelson, the baby white rhino, who was born in a Swedish zoo in the 90s and lived for about 10 days. His ashes are now buried in Nimis for some reason.
- The Ladonian pear tree
- The Ladonian Library
- Some seal bones from a seal, which got washed ashore in 2014 and stank up the place for months. But it’s alright, the Ladonian Health officials ensure us that the seal didn’t die of ebola, so it’s all good. 🙂
Know before you go: Nimis is located on the Kullaberg peninsula, which is also a very beautiful nature reserve. The closest town is Arild, which you can reach by bus, but will need to walk for about an hour from the bus stop. Find the Himmelstorp farmstead and follow the yellow painted N signs on the tree to the beach to reach Nimis (Google Maps coordinates here). The path is well marked, but it is also a relatively hard trek, because it’s downhill over slippery rocks and quite steep. Getting back up is also an adventure, so wear good hiking boots and go slowly. On a good day there are usually a lot of locals on the beach with their kids, so they can show you the way if you get lost. Make sure to be careful while exploring Nimis, because it’s easy to get caught on an exposed, rusty nail and the structure is not completely stable.
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