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In 2016 the artist Máret Ánne Sara placed a pile of a hundred reindeer heads in front of the Norwegian court building. She intended to sensitize Norwegians and support her brother who refused to kill his reindeer. He had filed a lawsuit against the Norwegian government claiming it was in violation of article 27 of the Universal Human Rights Declaration by preventing a breeder from continuing his culture and skills. He won his case in 2016 and won his appeal in 2017 but lost it at the Supreme Court. Máret then hung an impressive curtain of four hundred reindeer skulls in front of the Oslo Parliament. The case will now be brought before the European Human Rights Court. It has become a symbol of Sami resistance against an unfair decision by the Norwegian government. Máret Ánne Sara, beyond her shocking performances, has opened the debate on the question of Sami rights and a community that has been discriminated against for generations in a country that purports itself to being the most democratic and righteous in the world.

This “artistic legal action” gave birth to a movement of consciousness and citizen awakening. In 2017 King Harald V presented Norway’s official regrets for “the injustice of which the Sami people have been victims due to its tough Norwegianization policy.”

“At the beginning, Pile o’Sápmi was a personal cry but today it has become an artistic process against the State”

As the daughter and granddaughter of militant activists, Laila became conscious at an early age of the fate reserved for the Samis. Disgusted by this injustice, she decided to become a lawyer specializing in human rights. In 2007 she participated in negotiations for the United Nations declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples and its application in 2005 in the County of Finnmark for restituting land to the people. Today, this former vice-president of the Sami parliament is a member of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

 

In the past few years, she has been thrilled by the participation of artists in the public debate. They assure a role for transmitting and reconciling ancestors’ memories, something technocrats cannot do. Today, artists are on the front line and show politicians the way. Being optimistic, she believes in the Sami proverb: “progress is made by taking bird steps.”

Today, the animist, ancestral knowledge of the Sami people, in symbiosis with extreme nature and wild animals, is also a model for preserving the environment and fighting global warming. The Samis have a whole “laboratory” of ideas. Perhaps it’s time to listen to and learn from them?

“It is unique in our society that there is now a connection between artists and politicians: lawyers”

“There is a crucial need in the world today to listen to the voices of indigenous peoples”

Books: 

-Anta, mémoires d’un lapon (Anta, memories of a Sami), Andreas Labba at Pocket Editions

“This autobiographical text brings to life an Arctic people confronted by the perils of nomadism between Lapland’s frigid winters and brief summers spent along the Norwegian coast.”

 

-Le Dernier Lapon (the Last Sami), Olivier Turc, Points Editions

A police novel that takes place amidst the winter nights in Lapland

 

-La Montagne rouge (the Red Mountain), Olivier Truc, Points Editions

An investigation into a Sami clan, set against the backdrop of a legal battle between Swedish loggers and Sami breeders.

 

-La Loi des Sames (The law of the Samis), Lars Petterson, Gallimard

Anna, a Swedish woman with distant Sami origins, finds herself obliged to return to the north of her country to settle a sordid family affair.

 

Film :

Sami, une jeunesse en Laponie (Sami, a youth in Lapland), by Amanda Kernell

In the 30s, a young woman of Sami origin experiences racism and humiliation in her Swedish boarding school. To escape, she decides to break all ties with her family and culture.

LAILA SUZANNA VARS :

UMAN RIGHTS LAWYER

TO KNOW MORE

ART IS A WEAPON FOR PROTESTING

Une quête de la vérité sur la route des larmes

 

C'est à l’hôtel Bonaventure de Montréal qu'ont eu lieu les premières auditions de la commission d’enquête. Fanny Wylde retrouve Cheryl, de la communauté Mohawk, sidérée par le désintérêt de la police pour la recherche de sa sœur après le signalement de sa disparition. Carleen, mère de trois enfants, sera retrouvée par hasard par un chasseur, sept semaines plus tard, à deux kilomètres de chez elle. Morte. Elle s'est suicidée. Cheryl s’interroge encore sur une forme de racisme, l’apathie politique et l’indifférence des médias qui font passer ces crimes pour de simple faits divers. Pour Cheryl et pour toutes les autres familles de victimes, la commission d’enquête offre une lueur d’espoir et de justice.

ARTWORK TO DENOUNCE COLONIALISM

Máret’s artistic project, baptized Pile o’Sápmi is a reference to the 19th century massacre of buffalo in North America by colonists. But it also echos the rites and traditions of her people with a narrative discourse that evolves like a “work in progress”. The installation was made up of hundreds of recently killed animal heads. The flesh, hair, eyes, odor of decay: each element had a place. Then time did its work and only the skulls remained. A hole in each forehead bares witness to the animals having been killed by a bullet, totally disregarding the indigenous killing process that preserves and uses each part of the animal.

A necklace of reindeer jawbones also evokes these objects that were collected by Europeans during the 19th century. Máret’s work questions colonialism in the past, present and future while paying homage to the ancestral lifestyle of the Samis such as this piece entitled “Lasso.” This fetish object of breeders is today the symbol of combat against the disappearance of an entire people. “Don’t take a bomb, take your lasso.”

“These works are here to bare witness and open the debate”

Reference points:

Maret site: http://maretannesara.com/

 

Pile o’sapmi site: http://www.pileosapmi.com/

AN ARTIST AND DAUGHTER OF REINDEER BREEDERS 

Born on December 23, 1983, Máret Ánne Sara grew up in a family of breeders in the Sami territories of Norway. Her father stopped his breeding activity when she was twenty years old. This decision inspired her work as a journalist and artist doing numerous reports about indigenous peoples around the world. Working in Kautokeino where she co-founded the Dáiddadállu artist collective, she has developed, in parallel, a practice that combines drawings, painting and writing. Her work takes inspiration from her ancestors and culture to the point that she devoted herself all out to defending breeders when her younger brother, also a breeder, was required by the government to kill three-quarters of his herd in 2013. At this point she became a militant artist. On Instagram, she posted a photo of a flowered coffin with the comment “We defend a lifestyle, a culture …”.

“The animals brought human life here to the entire region. Thus they are the real indigenous inhabitants of these lands.”

Above the Arctic Circle in Norway, Sweden, Finland and on Russia’s Kola peninsula live 110,000 Samis, united by a language and history that dates back over ten thousand years. The passionate people who live on these wild, vast, hostile lands are hunters, fishers, gatherers and breeders of migratory reindeer. Their ancestors had an animist vision of the world. They believed that this extreme nature possessed a soul and that the mountains, rocks and lakes could help those who prayed to them. But over the centuries, the imposition of religion and colonization plus the extracting of natural resources transformed their lifestyle. The Far North has been increasingly threatened by the voracious mining industry. Projects have multiplied, especially in Norway where the damage is already visible. Since 2007, a law adopted by Norway’s parliament required reindeer breeders to kill a percentage of their herds in the name of a sustainable ecosystem. Today, only 10% of the Samis are still breeders. They are the last natural souls to live like their ancestors. The whole Sami community supports them since they represent the survival of an entire people and culture.

“To get rid of a people, you just have to eliminate their means of subsistence”

ART AS A WAY OF SERVING PEOPLE

PORTRAIT

 PORTRAIT

ART FOR PROTESTING

ART FOR PROTESTING

DENOUNCING COLONIALISM

DENOUNCING COLONIALISM

LAILA, A SAMI LAWYER

LAILA, A SAMI LAWYER

Numbers :

SAMIS EN NORWAY

( 1,6% OF THE POPULATION )

SAMIS STILL MAKE A LIVING BREEDING REINDEER

SAMIS IN FINMARK

THE SAMIS WERE COLONIZED BY THE KINGDOMES OF SWEDEN AND DENMARK

THE SAMIS WERE RECOGNIZED BY THE NORWEGIAN GOVERNMENT

THE SAMI ACT LET THEM "PROTECT AND DEVELOP THEIR LANGUAGE, CULTURE AND LIFESTYLE" AND CREATE A SAMI PARLIAMENT

THE GOVERNMENT IMPOSED A SIGNIFICANT REDUCTION

OF NUMBER OF REINDEER ON NORWAY'S NORTH-CONTINENTAL PLATEAUS (20 TO 50%)

OF TUNDRA IN NORTHERN NORWAY

km

TH

CENTURY

2

1950

1987

JUNE 15TH

2007 LAW

 

17

TO

TO

%

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MARET      ANNE SARA

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MARET      ANNE SARA

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LAILA, A SAMI LAWYER

CRÉDITS

DENOUNCING COLONIALISM

ART FOR PROTESTING

TO KNOW MORE

THE PORTRAIT

THE SUBJECT

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