Since centuries the Sámi – the First Peoples of Northern Europe – have had to cope with continuous invasions by the colonial rule: diminishing space to live and practice culture, self-governing and traditional livelihoods; forced assimilation; industrial utilisation of lands and waters such as mining, building hydroelectric power plants and wind farms, cutting of forests, commercial salmon farming, to name a few.
The prospect of a new Silk Road from Asia to Europe via the Arctic Sea and an Arctic Railway has raised discussion in the Nordics. The Arctic Railway would threaten traditional Sámi livelihoods as well as endanger the fragile Arctic ecosystem. Extending the railway all the way to the Arctic Sea is likely to bring more mining industry to the region.
The Sámi have demonstrated extraordinary resilience in protecting the lands and waters across Sápmi, the indigenous land traversing the four nation-states of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. Perhaps the most powerful example of Sámi-led resistance in recent history is the People’s Action against the damming of the Álta-Kautokeino River (1978-1982) that managed to establish widespread movement of local, national and international solidarity.
How can solidarity be organised to support the Sámi whose survival is jeopardised by industrial exploitation? How to continue in the spirit of Álta Action? What essential role do artists play in organising the movement? What is expected from the state institutions in order to operate in consent with the Sámi governing bodies? What does indigenous self-determination mean and how can it be realised?
The seminar will explore these questions with contributions from Britta Marakatt-Labba (artist and member of Sámi Artist Group, 1978-83), Raisa Porsanger (artist and curator), Rauna Kuokkanen (Research Professor of Arctic Indigenous Studies, University of Lapland), Pauliina Feodoroff (director and Sami activist), Sini Harkki (program manager, Greenpeace) among others. The discussion will be moderated by Suvi West (filmmaker and storyteller).
A short film Sámiin leat rievttit/The Sámi have rights/Samene har rett by Elle Márjá and Mai-Lis Eira will also be screened at the seminar.
The event is livestreamed by the Finnish National Museum.
Supported by the Finnish Cultural Foundation via Kehä IIII and Frame Contemporary Art Finland.