Jeg dro på besøk til mormor som er sjøsame fra Kvalsund og spurte om hun kunne gi meg oppskrifter på noe samisk mat. “Nei, da må du lage bidos og finnbiff, men det spiste ikke vi særlig ofte” sa mormor. “Brukte dere å lage kaffeost?” spurte jeg deretter. “Nei, men vi lagde nå ost til kaffen.” sa mormor. Vi hadde geiter, men bare hvite geiter, bruker mormor å si. De farga geitene hadde så dårlig smak på melka, så mamma ville bare ha hvite geiter. Ofte blanda vi kumelk og geitmelk, vi tok no det vi hadde. I dag lager jeg ost til kaffen av melk og surmelk, til Pop-up-Gilde i Stamsund. Er jeg samisk nok da?
A few weeks ago I moved from the southern part of Norway where I´ve lived and run a small ecological farm for the last four years. I moved home. Home is for me the city Trondheim in the middle of Norway, and the small place Trolla which is just outside of the city centre between the fjord and the forest. I spent large parts of my childhood here, and all my four kids have been born here. I actually thought I wasn´t the kind of person that got too attached to places or people, and that I could spend my life travelling and living anywhere. I had to turn 41 before I realized otherwise. Since january I´ve been seriously trying to get into shape, to loose some weight, become stronger and improve my dancing and tae kwon do-skills. This means that I eat healthy, do strength training every day and spend a lot of time walking or running in the woods, in addition to dancing and martial arts. Tonight I decided to go for a fast walk/slow run in the woods to relax my mind which is overloaded with my upcoming performance at Stamsund Theatre Festival. And also to make my dog happy. Todays walk turned into a walk along memory line. I have so many memories from these woods, some sad, some happy, some fun. I´ll show you. This is where I ran. When I was a kid my mother once took me and my sister up to this little lake in the middle of the night to go ice-skating in the moonlight. It had been cold for a long time but there were no snow, so it was perfect for ice-skating. But because there hadn´t been any snow the ice was dark as the black water and very scary to skate on. Today it was sunny and beautiful. I haven´t walked this exact path for more than 20 years. Last time I was here I came here with my granddad. He died 20 years ago. I´ve always wondered later where I could find this place, but today I just ran straight onto it. My granddad loved this forest and spent most of his life in it. I remember just days before my granddad died he told me that the last time he was in the forest there were so many little birds around. He felt that the birds spoke to him and told him to come and join them. I assume he did. This is the place he took me to when I was a kid. This is where I always go when I walk in these woods. Its just above Trolla and I think everyone in Trondheim comes here once and a while. Its a wonderful place to have a bath or go ice-skating. Once I was skiing with my mom and sister, and when we came past this spot, there where a lot of policemen around carrying something. My mom talked to them and told us they had found a dead moose under the ice. We had been ice-scating on the lake the day before. Later my mom told me that there had been someone there iceskating just after us, and they had discovered a hand beneath the ice. The police had pulled a dead man out of the water beneath the ice. Just here: Once I was a ghost, restlessly wandering theese woods crying. With the help of a bunch of child warriors I got married to my hero on this little hill, finding forever peace. The sadness of this marriage was that the man playing my groom was my forever best friend. We spent years having fun together, going out, watching football (I hate football, but with him I could watch), drinking Whiskey, larping (live role playing – google it) and just being together. He comforted me when I was heart-broken, worried about me when I was dating, took care about me when I needed it. He teached me to pay it forward. After several years we tried out a real relationship. It lasted only a couple of months. I probably misbehaved badly and I broke his heart. This marriage was the last time we talked. I still miss him. I still love him too. Though its probably been ten years. I used to take my daughters to this lake, when I was a single mom and the three of us was an unbrakeable unity. We often came here to barbecue or have a bath in the lake. I can never forgive myself for leaving town and breaking us up. Once I was here with my theatre-group. We were very drunk, one so badly that his tongue got swelled and numb and was just hanging out. We almost laughed ourself to death. Then we had a naked bath in the lake. Something happened to one of the actors skin so all the veins became visible under his skin. Almost freaked us all out. We decided to take a picture where we all lay floating in the lake looking dead. I wonder if those pictures still exist. Final destination. I only ran 8 km, but it was memories from a lifetime. Thats what is good about being older. I have lived so much. I always chose to live my life intensely. You rarely regret what you do. You regret what you don´t do. This has been my philosophy. I might have to reconsider it. I belive my mother´s and my grandmother´s house are both in this picture. My mothers on the next headlands. Gathering my family here. I hardly have any money, I have no farm any more, no land of my own, no horses, no car. I own nothing. But I have art, I live art, and I have this. This is home.
But then suddenly I did… Not because I´m the kind of person that enjoys pain. Not because I think piercings are so cool. This piercing is on my chest, its 3,5 cm and I´m going to hang the sami brooch there. In my skin. In my next performance. And I´m not hard enough to put the needle through my own skin during the performance, so I had to have a piercing artist do it for me. I did it because I don´t feel sami enough. I don´t feel Norwegian enough either. I don´t feel that I belong. This sami identity that I suddenly got, I feel I stole it. Some people mean that I should let it be. And I wish I could, just as much as I wish that I was still an engineer. Calm and steady, happy in my well paid job. Unfortunately I´m not. I´m a confused artist struggling for life in a hard and competitive world where you’re always poor (in a Norwegian manner) and never good enough. I wish the question of identity were simpler. That I could know that I was valuable only by existing. Unfortunately I know I´m not. I´m sami whether I want it or not. I´m also a Norwegian, from a good family of the people who ruined the lives of my other family. That is what assimilation is about. Or maby theire all related when you go back far enough. The assimilation of my ancestors is a pain that I will always carry. I´m an artist whether I want it or not. Whether someone likes my art or not. It is whom I am, what makes my heart beat. Whether I like it or not. Sometimes I actually do like it, but mostly I hate it. More is coming. Because it has to. It is who I am. Maybe it´s not who I was, but what I am about to become…
Today I was on the Coastal First Nations Festival as a visitor. To me this was a lifechanging experience. The native american culture have always been a visible and proud one. Even when it was still under extreme pressure and destruction. All my childhood I put my pride in walking silently in the woods so no-one could hear. I also transferred that to walking silent in the stairs or anywhere else, happy when I managed to sneak upon my unknowing family members. I loved being in the forest, and for all the world I wished that I could be a black-haired, brown-skinned princess as Pocahonthas. Not the readhead, freckled and pale as snow person that i have always been. To experience the solid strength, the familiar ties, and the secure traditions of the native canadians on this festival has changed me forever. Until hours ago I felt that my culture was lost, I´ve been afraid that I was not sami enough, not pretty enough, not young enough, not clever enough, not skilled enough… just not enough. But Margaret Grenier, artistic director of the Dancers of Damelahamid and produser of the CFNDF said something that has changed my life for ever today. I can´t repeat every word correctly, but the meaning went something like this: “Our people have suffered through so many things in the past. But there is no need to fear. Our ancestors are with us always, no matter what. They will follow us and make sure that we stay on our path and continue evolving as we are ment to be. There is no need to worry.” Thank you Margaret. I´ll keep your words in my mind and know that my ancestors are with me. What I create I´m ment to create. I´ll learn what I need to learn, in time. I don´t need to fear or blame myself. I´m safe. Thank you for sharing of your strength and wisdom. Now I feel so confident about tomorrows performance. Despite of rubbery stage floors and lack of hairpins. Thank you. http://www.damelahamid.ca/coastal-dance-festival
Yesterday (1´st of March 2018) I had the honour of being part of a panel discussion at The Coastal First Nations Dance Festival in Vancouver. I was very nervous and rewrote the manuscript for my presentation three times. I also brought it with me on stage. But after hearing the other wonderful artist talk about they’re work I couldn´t say anything of what I had planned. I needed to talk about shame. I have been doing dance, theatre and performing arts all my life. Ever since I forcefully directed my friends in self-made plays that we showed off to our parents when I was a child, through professional dance education, years with amateur theatre while I worked as an engineer and raced my daughters, through the time of educating as an actor and artist building up a professional career as a mature woman already too old in the eyes of society. I discovered my roots while making a performance about being a refugee. My grandmother experienced the evacuation of northern Norway during the second world war. As the germans lost the war they burned down the entire northern Norway to the ground. Every house, every boat, all that could be eaten or used for shelter, all lifestock were killed. So was pictures, clothes and all other remnants of the history of my people. The coastal sami people. My grandmother was sent south with all other northeneers. She left her culture there and started a new life in the south as a Norwegian. The performance I made was named “Pictures – fleeing”. This work got me started on a search for what my grandmothers life was like before she came to Trondheim, the city I was born and grew up in. My grandmothers name is Agnethe Nikoline Margrethe Lorås Hanssen. She was almost 90 years of age before she admitted to be a coastal sami. So much shame has been forced on my people, that she had lived her entire life denying her heritage and origin. The small place Kvalsund (meaning “whale channel”), where my grandmother was born, is known in Norwegian history books as the place in Norway where the assimilation politics where most successful. The oppression of the sami people started more than 1000 years ago. Already in the Viking age, Viking kings put unproportionally large taxes on the sami people. The sami were clever craft makers and hunters. Their beautiful handcraft and fur was taken by the Viking kings as tax. The sami people had already been sailing the harshest waters in the world with their small boats for centuries, and were the best boat builders. They were hired by the Vikings to help building the Viking ships that was later used by the Vikings to conquer the world. The boats the sami used are now known as the “Nordlandsbåt” (Northern country boat), and are not at all associated with the sami. The coastal sami culture is to a wide degree adapted and assmiliated into northern Norwegian culture, which makes it hard to prove that anything of value is of sami origin. For thousands of years the sami had lived of fishing and hunting in the northern areas. The colonialization, that started by the coast and slowly continued towards the mountains, forced the sami to start herding reindeers or settle as farmers and fishermen to more effectively use the resources. This caused the split in the culture into mountain sami that hearded reindeers and coastal sami that were fishermen and farmers. The unfear taxes of the sami people continued through centuries. At times the sami had to pay taxes to both Denmark-Norway, Sweden-Finland and Russia as the nations fought over power of these lands. The witch-hunt in Europe in the 16´th and 17´th century led to the first and gratest destruction of the sami culture. The Danish-Norwegian King Christian IV demanded that “the wicked sourcer-people of the north must be punished by fire and death”. The witch-hunt in northern Norway was the most intense in the entire Europe when counted as percentage of population. All drums were burned and most noaidis (sami shamans) were killed. Aloong the west-coast of northern Norway a large percentage of the killed witches were men. It is lightly to believe that property conflicts might have been a crucial reason for that. After the witch-hunt the christian preasts continued their missionary activities among the sami. The traditional joik was forbidden and the sami religion was extinct. As the colonialization continued new laws was established that clamed that if you were to own land you had to have a Norwegian name. The reindeer herders was still nomads, so they didn´t need to own land, but the coastal sami people who had settled now changed theire names to be able to own land. Thus the coastal sami lost theire traditional names. Then laws came that demanded that you needed to speak Norwegian to own land. Thus the coastal sami people made sure to have their children speak Norwegian. In the beginning of the 19-th century it was decided that all sami children were to attend internat-schools (schools were children have to live at the school). In the school they were forbidden of speaking sami language. When my grandmother were 11 her teacher said, that from today on it is forbidden to be sami. The sami people does not exist anymore. At the same time there were performed racial research that claimed that the sami people was not human and had less ability to learn, and thus of lesser value than the arial race. The mountain sami that had managed to keep their traditions did not longer approve of the coastal sami. The coastal sami were now too sami to be Norwegians, but too Norwegian to be sami. There were no pride left in my people. Then the WW2 started and the evacuation happened. All remnants of our culture was burned. The people was sent south and many chose to leave their culture behind and become Norwegians once and for all. As did my grandmother. I read somewhere that before WW2 95% of the people of the far north recognized themselves as sami or Kven (finnish immigrants) and only 5 % recognized themselves as Norwegians. But after WW2 when the rebuilding of Finnmark and Nord-Troms (northern Norway) had started, only 5% recognized themselves as sami, and 95% recognized themselves as Norwegians. Hardly any of the sami that moved south and stayed bothered to teach their children the sami language. Thus our language was lost. It ads to the history that the refugees during the evacuation experienced hatred from the people in the south, they were claimed to be filthy, valueless, not humans. They were bullied at school, had trouble finding jobs and places to live. They had to try to become Norwegians to be accepted in the society. This story I have told is a story of 1000 years of shame. A shame that is so burnt into our people that we inherit it from mother to daughter through generations. We will never be good enough. It is a chain that we need to brake, and I don´t know how to brake it. I can just put words and art to it and try to pretend that I feel valuable. My realization of this shame became my next performance: Riegadeapmi (Northern sami word for “birth”). “I was born at the age of 35” is an ongoing sentence of this performance. It is my about my own discovery of being a coastal sami, and about the shame my family is carrying. That is why I carry the drum I don´t know how to play, while I scrub the dirty floor in my finest dress, that I later cut into piezes to provide handkerchieves for the sniezy public. Riegadeapmi premiered at The International Arts Festival in New Delhi in 2016, and was later played at the Tråante Festival in Trondheim in 2017. I had now worked myself through the evacuation – which almost put and end to the coastal sami culture, and through the sami history and my familys history of shame. Now I had to figure out what the coastal sami culture was really about. This is how I started to work with “Heritage”. A theatre performance with visual dramaturgy consisting of music, dance, text, film and lighting. It was originally named “Heritage – In my grandmother’s footsteps”. I literally followed her footsteps, as I travelled to the place where she was born, and found the remnants of the house where she had lived as a child. I got to see places where witches had been burned, where the coastal sami culture once were a rich and proud one. And I suddenly realized that my grandmothers stories from my childhood was real cultural heritage that I´d never realized the exclusive value of. As was the way I had been raised by my mother who did´nt know she was raising me the sami way. I tried through the work with “Heritage” to give life to these histories and the culture I had discovered, and to express what we have been exposed to through the last centuries. The performance premiered at Tråante 2017 and later toured in Bangladesh. We´re still touring in Norway with this performance. Pictures from “Heritage”. There is also a film from this performance that can be seen on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cQyx_3NAkI It is not much left of the coastal sami culture. It needs to be reclaimed, rediscovered and rebuilt. The language must be taken back. The road seems endless. But I have started to walk that road. And I am grateful that my grandmother lived long enough to pass this knowledge on to us. She´s 95 years old and still a smart, strong and wonderful woman. My grandmother: Agnethe Nikoline Margrethe Lorås Hanssen. At the moment I´m working on smaller projects with the purpose of bringing the coastal sami culture out to people. This is why I´ve made “When the sun disappeared”. A childrens performance that premiered at the library in Trondheim in February 2018. Picture from “When the sun disappeared”, at Trondheim Library 24´th of February 2018. The dance performance Sáráhkkás Tears serves the same purpose. It is a small adventure based around a teenaged coastal sami girl and her relation to the sami goddess Sáráhkká, Who lives in the fireplace and who´s aim is to protect babies and especially girls while they grow up. This is a dance performance, accompanied by text and music, that premiered at The Coastal First Nations Dance festival in Vancouver, March 2018. Picture from the photoshoot for Sáráhkkás Tears. This is how far I have got on my artistic road into the sami culture. But I´m still walking. It will be interesting to see where it continues from here.
It´s still not officially settled, but today I got confirmed that I´m invited to the Coastal First Nations Dance Festival in March 2018. I´m so exited about this. Last year I was invited to the WIPCE (World Indegionous People Conference on Education) in Canada, but they did not cover travel costs, and I didn´t have time to get the project properly funded. This time I think this will become reality. I´m so grateful for all the opportunities that life sends off along my path.
Today it was finally confirmed that we have a new dancer in our performance Heritage, for the performance in Hammerfest! I´m looking so much forward to work with the wonderful dancer Tonje Sannes!
Or at least to Stormen Kulturhus in Bodø where Envegsbillett (One-way-ticket) will be performed on the upcoming monday 11´th of December. The next two days I will be rehersing at Aladdin, thanks to Scenekunst Sør who´s providing localities to a overcoming price for local artists.
We had an incredible journey in Bangladesh with “Arv” (Heritage) i November 2017. The tour were sponsored by UD/Norsk Danse og Teatersentrum and Daiddafoanda. We are immensely grateful for their help to realise this project. Having the opportunity to tell my grandmothers story and make the coastal Sami people alive by promoting their history throughout the world is of grate importance to me.
Our tour in Bangladesh with the performance “Heritage” is now set and contracts written. We are also granted money from UD/Danse og teatersentrum to cover the travel for our professional artists. We are very grateful for this! 26´th of October 2017 we perform at the Aranyk Natyadal Theatre Festival in Dhaka 28´th of October 2017 we perform at the Nandimuhk International Theatre Festival We are looking so much forward to visit such exiting festivals and to learn about this culture.