Lectures & Literary highlights

From Lapland to Sápmi Virtual Book Talk with Barbara Sjoholm

Tue—4-18-2023
i

TUE—April 18—7 PM, free
*This event will take place online*

Join us for a virtual talk with Barbara Sjoholm on From Lapland to Sápmi! She’ll discuss the book’s exploration of the cultural history of Sápmi and the Nordic countries as told through objects and artifacts, out in March 2023 from University of Minnesota Press.

Material objects—things made, used, and treasured—tell the story of a people and place. So it is for the Indigenous Sámi living in Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia, whose story unfolds across borders and centuries, in museums and private collections. The objects created by the Sámi for daily and ceremonial use were purchased and taken by Scandinavians and foreign travelers in Lapland from the 17th century to the present, and the collections described in From Lapland to Sápmi map a complex history that is gradually shifting to a renaissance of Sámi culture and craft, along with the return of many historical objects to Sápmi, the Sámi homeland.

Sámi objects first collected in Lapland by non-Indigenous people were drums and other sacred artifacts, but later came to include handmade knives, decorated spoons, clothing, and other domestic items owned by Sámi reindeer herders and fishers, as well as artisanal crafts created for sale. Barbara Sjoholm describes how these objects made their way via clergy, merchants, and early scientists into curiosity cabinets and eventually to museums in Copenhagen, Stockholm, Oslo, and abroad. Musicians, writers, and tourists also collected Sámi culture for research and enjoyment. Displays of Sámi material culture in Scandinavia and England, Germany, and other countries in museums, exhibition halls, and even zoos often became part of racist and colonial discourse as examples of primitive culture.

These displays soon figured in the debates of ethnographers and curators over representations of national folk traditions and “exotic” peoples. Sjoholm follows these objects and collections from the Age of Enlightenment through the 20th century, when artisanship took on new forms in commerce and museology and the Sámi began to organize politically and culturally. Today, several collections of Sámi objects are in the process of repatriation, while a new generation of artists, activists, and artisans finds inspiration in traditional heritage and languages.

Deftly written and amply illustrated, with contextual notes on language and Nordic history, From Lapland to Sápmi brings to light the history of collecting, displaying, and returning Sámi material culture, as well as the story of Sámi creativity and individual and collective agency.

Registration is required. Please sign up at the link above. This event will take place as a Zoom webinar and later be available to stream. Please ask questions in the chat or send them in advance to  info@amscan.org.

“An important contribution to Sámi stories of loss, recovery, and the struggle for equality, as well as the right to manage one’s own cultural heritage on one’s own terms. As Barbara Sjoholm charts the transformation of Lapland to Sápmi in objects, joiks, and storytelling, Sámi voices emerge to share essential aspects of their history. As we say in Sápmi, ‘Čálli giehta ollá guhkás—A writing hand reaches far.’” —Káren Elle Gaup, coeditor of Bååstede: The Return of Sámi Cultural Heritage

About the Author

Barbara Sjoholm is a writer, editor, and translator of Danish and Norwegian literature. Her translations include By the Fire: Sami Folktales and Legends, also from Minnesota.

She is the author of several works of fiction and nonfiction, including Black Fox: A Life of Emilie Demant Hatt, Artist and Ethnographer.