Tomas Colbengtson Barndom Screenprint oil on glass 2019
3 December '19
Mariboes gate 8

Båassjoeraejken Tjïrr

Marking the end of the United Nations’ Year of Indigenous Languages OCA hosted an evening programme about Indigenous languages and creative practices related to Sámi aesthetic expressions, such as duodji and dáidda.

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Tomas Colbengtson, courtesy of the artist.

This three-part OCA event was curated by Indigenous scholar Liisa-Rávná Finbog and held in collaboration with Norwegian Crafts. It featured the participants Taqralik Partridge, Unni Fjellheim, Tomas Colbengtson, Sissel M. Bergh and Raisa Porsanger.

Over recent years, OCA’s programming has maintained a commitment to language, highlighting the special attention to words, speech and writing that many artists and thinkers implement in their work today. Båassjoeraejken Tjïrr was a continuation of this commitment with a programme on Indigenous language and in particular South Sámi, one of the languages most under pressure in the world.

In Indigenous societies, where written materials have often been the exception rather than the rule, it is the spoken language that serves as literature – linked not only to the people but also to the ancestral landscapes in which they were created, as well as to the current environments in which they continue to exist today.

‘Studies show that Sámi aesthetic practices such as duodji are vital to upholding and ensuring the continuing survival of Sámi languages, cultures and connection with the landscape. Children learn to practice duodji by first seeing and then reproducing the practice of their elders, who through the spoken word, relay not only their practice but also their knowledge, traditions, beliefs and histories that have been generated by that practice through the generations,’ says Liisa-Rávná Finbog.

A starting point for our assembly is the term båassjoeraejken tjïrr, which reflects an act of transformation. The term refers to the physical act of entering (tjïrr) through a small door (båassjoeraejken), traditionally found at the back of a Sámi turf-hut, or goahti. Though the båassjoeraejken was for everyday use, it also served as a spiritual gateway in rituals of healing and cleansing:

‘The practice of art and/or duodji is one medium through which Indigenous people may reclaim the voice of their ancestors, and their connection to landscape, initiating both the healing and cleansing of the historical and ongoing trauma caused by colonisation and subjugation’, says Finbog, who has invited dáiddars (artists) and duojárs (practitioners of duodji) to highlight the many ways in which they re-enter their ancestral languages through their practices.