Suddenly Curious

Director Ellen-Astri Lundby

Last Tuesday, as part of their excellent event series in conjunction with the 8 Seasons in Sápmi exhibit, the Nordic Heritage Museum hosted a screening of Suddenly Sámi, the documentary by Ellen-Astri Lundby about her discovery of Sámi heritage. This was my second viewing, and almost as powerful as the first.

Lundby is a charming and deft storyteller. As she explores the heritage her mother kept from her, she brings us along to northern Norway, meeting with relatives and finding clues to her family’s past. With several parallels to my own experience of suppressed heritage, I found Lundby’s story profoundly moving. Her mother reminded me of my grandmother, her cousins of my uncles, the rural scenes, my former home, the Laestadian hymn, my childhood church. Even the fish boning and the carving of a carcass were familiar, having witnessed both many times as a child. But it was the unfamiliar reindeer corral scene that moved me to tears.

Pondering what it means to be Sámi, Lundby jokes that despite her people being Sea Sámi, and the fact that only 10 percent of Sámi herd reindeer, reindeer might make her feel more authentic. After a comedic scene of her wrestling with antlers, she is shown in a breathtaking longshot, standing alone in the middle of the spiraling herd in the snow. Beyond its stark beauty, the image seems symbolic of the ancestral search itself, which is not linear, but widens and narrows and circles in on itself, less like a tree than a whirlpool. Continue reading

Don’t Miss This Exhibit

Reindeer milking bowl

Last night, we got a sneak preview of the “Eight Seasons in Sápmi” exhibit at the Nordic Heritage Museum. I will be returning tonight for the Member’s Preview, and no doubt several times after, to enjoy it at leisure (the show closes November 4, 2012). The artifacts include items from the Ajtte Museum, displayed in three rooms on the second floor. The items in the hallway are from the Nordic Heritage Museum’s archives, gathered by donations over the years, and not, to my knowledge, exhibited before.

Before the preview, about fifty of us were treated to lectures and slideshows presented by Mari Ann Nutti (director of the Duodji Association) and Anna Westman Kuhmunen (director of Ajtte). It was great to see so many familiar faces in the crowd! (Several people said they came because of our emailed invitation just a few hours earlier, which goes to show you never know which outreach is going to hit its target.)

Mari-Ann (whose surname Nutti is Sámi) wore her beautiful summer gakti from the Jokkmokk area, where her family is still active in reindeer herding. She gave us an overview of Sámi handicrafts, the natural materials from which they are made, and their many uses. Included in the exhibit are knives, drums, cups, spoons, jewelry, baskets, bags, and clothing, as well as some videos on autoplay that I am eager to watch tonight.

Continue reading