Sámi Art at the Venice BiennaleNú Ninja Helga Mjöll
The Nordic Pavilion in Venice was created in 1959 through the partnership between Reima and Raili Pietilä, Sverre Fehn, and Klas Anshelm, to facilitate the national representation of three of the Nordic countries, that is Finland, Norway and Sweden, during the Venice Biennale arts festival. Their mission is “a proposal for a space able to unite a triumvirate of nations under one (exceptional) roof.”
Recently, the Office for Contemporary Art Norway announced the pavilion will rather be highlighting Sámi artists in their 2022 lineup. Sámi are an Indigenous group occupying the region of Sápmi, which today counts for northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Kola Peninsula of Russia. The Nordic Pavilion will turn into the Sámi Pavilion. For the first time, Sámi artists will be exclusively represented and recognized as a nation in a pavilion of their own.
Pauliina Feodoroff, Máret Ánne Sara, and Anders Sunna will be representatives on behalf of the Sámi people at next year’s pavilion. What these artists, much like others seek to promote, are the issues such as deforestation, land and water governance, and self-determination that are experienced not only by the Sámi people but Indigenous communities all around the world. Their aim is to use their art as a form of symbolic reversal of the colonial claims put on the Sámi people to erase their land and culture.
From Finland, Feodoroff is a popular theatre director, artist, and nature guardian. Growing up in the Skolt Sámi society, she has always had a passion for solving land and water right issues. Because of this, Feodoroff has advocated for such rights in her role as President of the Sámi Council alongside her art work. In the form of theatre and film, she is able to educate those about protecting the waters and land in Finland and the importance of ecological conservation.
Máret Ánne Sara
On the other hand, growing up in Norway, author and artist Máret uses her voice to advocate for the political and social issues that Sámi people are challenged with. Her art spans from a reindeer-social perspective, meaning many of her pieces are made from sustainable materials from reindeer bones, hides and intestines. In addition to her art, she has also published two novels, Ilmmid gaskkas and Doaresbealde doali. Her first novel was even nominated for the Nordic Council’s Children’s and Young Literature prize.
Sunna originates from the Swedish part of Sápmi and like his fellow highlighted artists at next year’s pavilion, he uses his art to narrate the history of oppression of the Sámi people. More specifically, as a form of political agitation in articulating a sense of brutality in his art based on personal experiences. Much of his work is paint based and made up of collages of different material. Many of his art pieces have won a variety of awards including the Jane Glassco Award for Emerging Talent in imgaineNATIVE.
For more information about the artists:
Máret Ánne Sara
Other Nordic pavilions
Written by Benji Raskin