Acknowledgement of the Sámi people

OCA acknowledges the Sámi as one people, and as the Indigenous people of the Fennoscandian region. On the land of this region, Sápmi, the Sámi people have lived since time immemorial, respectfully harvesting from nature by fishing, farming, hunting and following reindeer, amongst other activities.

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1804 Let The River 7454
18 Apr '14 – 3 Jun '18
Office for Contemporary Art Norway (OCA)
Nedre gate 7
Oslo

Let the River Flow. The Sovereign Will and the Making of a New Worldliness.

The Áltá Action (c. 1978-82) changed the course of Sámi and Nordic history. This exhibition showcased the role of Sámi artists in the Action, and the solidarity of non-Sámi counterparts. It also presented contemporary artistic positions, both Sámi and international, exploring the legacy of this eco-Indigenous uprising today, at a time of growing global Indigenous power.

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From the opening of 'Let the River Flow. The Sovereign Will and the Making of a New Worldliness'. Photo: OCA / Herman Dreyer
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From the opening of 'Let the River Flow. The Sovereign Will and the Making of a New Worldliness'. Photo: OCA / Herman Dreyer

'Let the River Flow' was the fruit of three years of dialogue with artists, scholars, and other cultural peers and peoples across Sápmi, traversing four nation-states (Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia). The exhibition showcased the essential role of Sámi artists in the action, in particular the radical Mázejoavku: Sámi Dáiddajoavku (Sámi Artists’ Group, 1978-83), as well as the solidarity of non-Sámi counterparts. It presented rare historic works side-lined by the Nordic art historical canon, as well as material from the The Archives of the Protest Movement against the damming of the Áltá-Guovdageino water system and new contemporary commissions that explore the legacy of Áltá today. 'Let the River Flow' simultaneously claims and challenges the place of Sámi art amongst the new global, modernist, museology dedicated to expanding the canon of art history to a worldwide scale.

'Let the River Flow' was curated by Katya García-Antón, with Antonio Cataldo. The project was honoured by the guidance of an Advisory Council consisting of Sámi scholars Dr Gunvor Guttorm and Prof Harald Gaski. The exhibition design was the fruit of a Sámi-Norwegian collaboration by A-Lab (Káre R. Anti) and Torsteinsen Design.

Artworks, performances and lectures were presented by: Nabil Ahmed, Áillohaš/Nils-Aslak Valkeapää, Maria Thereza Alves, Jimmie Durham, Elle Márjá Eira, Mai-Lis Eira, Pauliina Feodoroff, Aage Gaup, Trygve Lund Guttormsen, Josef Halse, Geir Tore Holm and Søssa Jørgensen, Berit Marit Hætta, Susanne Hætta, Iver Jåks, Keviselie/Hans Ragnar Mathisen, Áine Mangaoang, Britta Marakatt-Labba, Joar Nango and Tanya Busse, Rannveig Persen, Synnøve Persen, Máret Ánne Sara, Arvid Sveen, Elin Már Øyen Vister, amongst other contributors.

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'Let the River Flow. The Sovereign Will and the Making of a New Worldliness' installation view. Photo: OCA / Herman Dreyer
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'Let the River Flow. The Sovereign Will and the Making of a New Worldliness' installation view. Photo: OCA / Herman Dreyer

Emerging histories of Indigenous empowerment

The Áltá Action was a reaction to the profound impact on Sámi communities, their livelihoods, their cultural heritage and role as environmental protectors, of the flooding caused by the damming of large areas of Sápmi. The resistance movement was as unprecedented within the history of social protests in Europe, as was its dramatic climax: the Sámi hunger strikes in Oslo in 1979. Moreover, it was part of the Áltá Action's new environmental consciousness of the 1970s, as well as the emerging histories of Indigenous empowerment of the time.

Today the Action elicits bitter-sweet memories. Some historians have claimed that by catalysing Norway's signature of the United Nation's ILO Convention 169 and the creation of a Sámi Parliament in Kárášjohka (1989) the Action marked a new era of Nordic de-colonisation - one that potentially placed Norway at the fore-front of social justice policy-making world-wide. Yet a new generation of Sámi artists and thinkers claim that this process stalled early on, coinciding with the rise of a new economy in Norway, and that the very survival of Sámi culture, land, livelihood and world-views is in serious danger today. Their voices are much sought after amongst the most prestigious cultural arenas internationally, and play an essential role within the powerful Indigenous movement spreading across the world – artistically, ecologically and politically.

Let the River Tensta konsthall installation view 2019
Installation view from the exhibition at Tensta Konsthal's exhibition space, 2019. Photo Tensta Konsthall.
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Curator Raisa Porsanger and Katya García-Antón at SDG's exhibition space, 2019. Photographed by Eirin Torgersen / OCA.
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Installation view from the exhibition at SDG's exhibition space, 2019. Photographed by Eirin Torgersen / OCA.

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