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The Sámi Pavilion

In an historic first, the Nordic Pavilion in Venice is transforming into 'The Sámi Pavilion', with a project commissioned by Office for Contemporary Art Norway (OCA) featuring the Sámi artists Pauliina Feodoroff, Máret Ánne Sara and Anders Sunna during the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia in 2022. This transformation of the Nordic Pavilion celebrates the art and sovereignty of the Indigenous Sámi people, whose nation extends across the Nordic countries and into the Kola Peninsula in Russia.
Watch the announcement of the projects from the Sámi Parliament in Kárášjohka here

Pauliina Feodoroff Photo Per Josef Idivouma 1

Pauliina Feodoroff

Pauliina Feodoroff (b. 1977) is a Skolt Sámi theatre director, artist and nature guardian from Keväjäu ́rr, in the Finnish part of Sápmi, and Suõ ́nnjel, in the Russian part of Sápmi. Feodoroff has advocated for Sámi water and land rights in her previous role as President of the Saami Council and as an artist working to combine various fields of knowledge at the intersection of ecological conservation, theatre and film. In 2018 her cross-disciplinary project What Form(s) Can an Atonement Take used Sámi land-care practices, bringing together local and scientific knowledge to protect the waters and surrounding lands of the Njâuddam river in the Finnish part of Sápmi.

Maret Anne Sara Photo by Marie Louise Somby En terre Indigene

Máret Ánne Sara

Máret Ánne Sara (b. 1983) is a Northern Sámi artist from Guovdageaidnu in the Norwegian part of Sápmi. She is known for experimenting with a range of materials and approaches that make visible the political and social issues affecting the Sámi people. Her works are often made from materials deriving from the sustainable practice of her reindeer-herding family, including reindeer bones, hides and intestines. Her installation Pile o’ Sápmi, composed of 400 reindeer skulls and legal documents, was showcased at documenta 14 in Kassel, 2017. The installation was recently purchased by the National Museum of Norway in Oslo.

4x3 Anders Sunna Photo Erik Persson 5

Anders Sunna

Anders Sunna (b. 1985) is a Northern Sámi artist from Kieksiäisvaara, in the Swedish part of Sápmi. Sunna’s politically charged artworks narrate the history of the oppression of the Sámi people and specifically address his family’s five-decade long struggle for their land rights as forest reindeer herders. With powerful imagery and political satire, his paintings, graffiti, sculptures and installations depict how abuse of authority and power lead to the exploitation of land and natural resources, forced displacement, and racial persecution of Sámi people. Sunna was recently commissioned to make a site-specific mural for the 22nd Biennale of Sydney, NIRIN, 2020.

Artists

Pauliina Feodoroff representing Sápmi at La Biennale di Venezia 2022. Film by Forest People AS
Máret Ánne Sara representing Sápmi at La Biennale di Venezia 2022. Film by Forest People AS
Anders Sunna representing Sápmi at La Biennale di Venezia 2022. Film by Forest People AS

Project

By appointing Feodoroff, Sara and Sunna to transform the pavilion, OCA Norway – the commissioner of the Nordic Pavilion for the Biennale Arte 2022 – aims to draw attention to the excellence of these Sámi artists, as well as the international relevance of their individual and collective histories. Their art emphasises the urgent situation experienced today by many Sámi – and other Indigenous people worldwide – concerning self-determination, deforestation, land and water governance. Specifically these Sámi artists engage with the struggle to maintain the reindeer herding and fishing that are central to their existence. The artists reflect upon these concerns by drawing from Sámi ways of being and knowing, producing work of great power. This makes them extraordinary within the art world of today.

The Sámi are the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian Peninsula and large parts of the Kola Peninsula, which today is divided between Sweden, Norway, Finland and Russia. Sápmi is the Sámi people’s own name for their homeland. The transformation of the Nordic Pavilion into the Sámi Pavilion is an act of Indigenous sovereignty that highlights the relationship of the artists to their homeland Sápmi, an area that pre-dates the concept of the Nordic region, and presents a pavilion that encompasses all of the lands and people of what was originally a borderless region. It is a symbolic reversal of colonial claims that have sought to erase Sámi land and culture.

Katya García-Antón, Director of the Office for Contemporary Art Norway, lead commissioner of the Nordic Pavilion, comments: ‘The global pandemic, the impact of climate change and worldwide calls for decolonisation are leading us all to focus on alternative possibilities for our future and that of our planet. At this pivotal moment, it is vital to consider Indigenous ways of relating to the environment and to each other. The artworks of Feodoroff, Sara and Sunna in the Sámi Pavilion present compelling visions of how these relationships operate, from a Sámi perspective. As leading voices of their generation, these artists’ works counter the impact of colonialism upon their lives and, in so doing, connect with the experiences shared by so many people, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, in our world today.’

The exhibition will be curated by a group consisting of Sámi scholar Liisa-Rávná Finbog, OCA’s Director Katya García-Antón and Sámi land guardian Beaska Niillas; curatorial assistants: Liv Brissach ( February 2020 - March 2022), Raisa Porsanger (February 2020 - December 2021) and Martina Petrelli ( February 2022 - May 2022).

The project also benefits from an international group of advisers consisting of Wiradjuri interdisciplinary artist and scholar Brook Andrew (Artistic Director of NIRIN, 22nd Biennale of Sydney 2020; Associate Professor, Fine Art, Monash University; and Enterprise Professor in Interdisciplinary practice. The Faculty of Fine Arts and Music, University of Melbourne) and Anishinaabe curator (Art Gallery of Ontario, Turtle Island/Canada), artist and educator Wanda Nanibush.

Following the Sámi custom of learning from elders of the community, the artists will benefit from the individual guidance of the following elders: Feodoroff, will be guided by Sámi educator and professor emerita Asta M. Balto; Sara by reindeer herder and Sámi knowledge bearer Káren E. M. Utsi; and Sunna by Sámi professor of law and juoigi (practitioner of joik, the Sámi musical practice) Ánde Somby.

Curatorial Group

Katya Garcia Anton Photo Eirin Torgersen

Katya García-Antón

García-Antón is director/chief curator of the Office for Contemporary Art Norway She graduated as a biologist, and transitioned into the arts with a master’s degree in 19th and 20th century art from The Courtauld Institute of Art, London. She worked at The Courtauld Institute of Art, Museo Nacional Reina Sofía Madrid, ICA London, IKON Birmingham, and the Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève. She curated the Nordic Pavilion, Venice Biennial in 2015 and the Spanish Pavilion in the Venice Biennial 2011. In OCA, García-Antón has generated significant Indigenising practices and programs. In August 2022 she becomes director of the Northern Norway Art Museum (NNKM).

Liisa Ravna Finbog Photo Eirin Torgersen

Liisa-Rávná Finbog

Finbog is a Sámi archaeologist and museologist from Oslo/Vaapste/Skánit on the Norwegian side of the Sápmi. She is currently a Post-Doctoral Researcher at Tampere University, Finland. She completed a PhD in museology at the University of Oslo in 2021. In her doctoral project, she looked at the relation between Sámi identity and duodji within a museological framework. She is also an accomplished practicioner of duodji and teaches both courses and workshops in traditional Sámi arts. She has recently contributed to the collective work Research Journeys In/To Multiple Ways of Knowing (2019).

Beaska Niillas Photo Eirin Torgersen

Beaska Niillas

Niillas from Deatnu in the Norwegian part of Sápmi, is among other things a father of two, Sámi duojár, hunter, gatherer, nature guardian and politician. Nature has been in the centre of his life since childhood. Growing up, the land was his playing field and his friend. He has done a lot of different things in his life, but the only formal education he has is a certificate of apprenticeship in duodji. For some time, he also worked as an actor in both Beaivváš Sámi National Theatre and Giron Sámi Theatre. After that he was a teacher and then went on to work as a fisherman. For the last ten years he has been active in Sámi politics and also defended Indigenous land and waters in Sápmi and beyond.

Previous Venice Biennales

4909 ane graff nabbteeri ingela ihrman 1 kopi

Venice Biennale 2019

'Weather Report: Forecasting Future' in the Nordic Pavilion 11 May – 24 November 2019