Comfy in «kofte» (traditional outfit)
For me, who grew up in Kautokeino, a place where the Sami culture and identity is strong and stable, it’s evident and easy for me personally to say that I avoided to feel afflicted by the assimilation to become Norwegian. When it comes down to it, I actually don’t take it that much into consideration. But it would be wrong of me to say that I don’t care about it.
The assimilation to become Norwegian and the consequences it creates dosen’t stop at the trauma sami children has experienced. You find it carrying on throughout generations. That’s the true result of assimilation to become Norwegian and what it has led to, a divisions within the Sami people and culture and to say the least, lead to a deep routed shame in being a part of the Sami culture. For the majority of the people, it has resulted in a Sami population not being able to speak its own language.
Assimilation has marked a people as a whole, and only time can tell when the scars made from 150 years of suppression can heal. We know what consequences assimilation, that has banished the existence of Sami presence in the Norwegian society, has contributed to when it comes to the loss of culture and language.
So how will we, young people, relate to all of this in 30 years? Will we have been able to retrieve our own language and culture to the extent that it is no longer is threatened, have we been able to keep the the Sami inheritance alive and made it a visible culture in a Norway of today?
In this issue you will be acquainted with the history of the Sami people and our culture. You will meet current contemporary artists who lives for the promotion of Sami art and culture. There are so many worth mentioning, but we only had so many pages – and we put the question to life: can art heal and repair the dark history behind it all? Can politics?
Artist John Andrea Savio was the first Sami artist whose work was aquired by the National Museum in Norway. In the woodcut “Reingjeter 1” one can imagine earlier generations looking into the future, proud that the Sami culture has survived, but heartbroken over the fact that hatred and encroachment of Sami areas still is happening to this day.
I am very proud of the Sami culture and truly happy that It’s a part of me. I am comfy wearing my «kofte» (traditional outfit), and I know that many young Sami people are, too. But how will we be able to carry, put forward and focus on these Sami values and culture within the Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish, and Russian societies? One important thing is that people have become more curious about Sami art and culture, both locally and internationally. And that, I think, is a jolly good place to begin.
Alf Berg Grønnli, guest editor
Most Beautiful Book of the Year, «Beaivváš mánát / Living amongst reptiles» is nominated to Nordic Council Literature Award.
The Year’s most beautiful book is awarded by Grafill (Association of graphic designers and artists in Norway) in 2022. The book contains a collection of poems written by Mary Ailonieida Sombán Mari «Beaivváš mánát / Living amongst reptiles» and is designed by the Blank Blank studio in Oslo. The book is nominated to the Nordic Council Literature Price 2022.
Mary Ailonieida Sombán Mari was born 1953 from Lágesduottar and Bonjákas in Tanadalen (northern Norway) and has written poetry since she wrote and released the very first Sami children’s book, «Ámmul ja alit oarbmælli» in the northern sami language 1976. She wrote a book for children after noticing a clear lack of Sami literature at the time.
– It was especially important since Sami children didn’t have their own books, they only had access to books translated from Norwegian, she says. One witnessed a short lived increase in the production of Sami literature in the beginning of the 1900s and thankfully it’s become a lot better. After the 1980s new Sami literature has emerged. Mary’s literary contribution consists of many, amongst books for children, where one of them was nominated for Nordic Council Litterature Price for children books: «Cerbmen Bizi: girdipilohtta», translated to two other sami languages (there are ten all togheter).
In 2020 she released her collection of poems «Beaivváš mánát / Living amongst reptiles». The book is designed by Blank Blank and published at Mondo Books and it is this book, also written in both Northern Sami and Norwegian, that won the prize «The Most Beautiful Book of The Year», despite the fact that it contains poems with titles like «Help the Sami go to Hell» and «About Time to Extinct All People of Nature».
– Winning was so surprising and incredibly fun, she says. The poem collection book consists of two parts, she clarifies. The poems written in Norwegian are not retellings or recited in any way, nor directly translated from Northern Sami.
«The Most Beautiful Book of The Year» is awarded by Grafill, the organization for illustrator’s and artists. Mary’s poems are envelloped in a gold-plated book cover which looks gorgeous, but the competition is not only about aesthetics. The jury discuss paper, binding, illustration, text and font when they choose the winners for the different awards.
«The Most Beautiful Book of The Year» – «Beaivváš mánát / Living amongst reptiles», opens on different subjects regarding the Sami history. It carries questions on the assimilation that the Sami culture suffered for more than 150 years. Sami children in were taken from their families and forced to go to boarding schools where there was no place for Sami culture and language. She looks at education of teachers in the history of teachings from a Sami angle, about which she is not impressed. The book is also a homage to their landscape and the sun as a spiritual force and the source of life. Mary tells that she reflects deeply about what to write about and what feelings that are connected to the text. With this collection of poems, she wants to shine a light on the ugliness of the Norwegian assimilation that her people lived through. She says it there were many difficulties growing up under duress.
– I belong to the generation when the assimilation was at its worst, she says.
Blank Blank is the designer behind the book, which is based in Oslo. They worked on constructing a new way of including the Sami aspects in the design, which led to questions on how to design the publication. Tanya Busse from Mondo Books for example talks about how the Western world tends to avoid the use of gold and silver colors.
– It was the Finnish-Norwegian designer Petri Henriksson from Blank Blank who proposed using gold. We often talked of what Sami aesthetics are. Mary often dresses up in gold and silver accessories, so we felt gold would fit well with her and the book, he says.