Two of my paintings, "Sami American" and "Sami Reindeer," will be shown in Highland Park, Illinois at The Art Center, as part of what the organizers describe as "two extraordinary exhibits juxtaposing Contemporary Native American Art and Journey to America. The exhibit will voice two individual stories side by side, to create a dialogue in the context of the native population, each personal history and heritage affecting the true American Story. We hope to shed light on the America where diversity, with the differences of each journey at the core, shape our view and vision of how we look at immigration in America."
My work explores the complexities of ancestral identity and how it threads together the past, present and future. How can I relate to something that was never mine because it was never passed down in the way of traditions? My portraits contemplate the loss of Sami culture through oppression and my family’s emigration from Finland, as well as, the significance in reconnecting to the land and customs of my ancestors. My pieces are endeavors in understanding what it means to be Sami American.
In my family we hardly have any trinkets, treasures, or heirlooms from generations past. However, when I was a little girl my mom sang me a Finnish lullaby, which her mother sang to her, and her mother sang to her and so on... I had never seen the words to the song before or had any idea of the translation until someone from Finland helped me discover what the song was and translated it for me.
Piu pau paukkaa,
Jänis metsässä laukkaa,
Poron kello kaulassa,
(name) nuttu naulassa.
Pew Pow Bang!
A hare gallops in the forest
with a reindeer(’s) bell on her neck
(name) jacket (is) hung up on a nail.
Seeing the words and knowing the translation of my lullaby has somehow made the song more real to me and has made me think differently of it. To me, it's as real as any physical object, and it was brought by my ancestors from Finland and passed down generation to generation. I am suddenly aware of a special family heirloom and am contented knowing that I have something of the past which can be carried into the future.
Through ancestry.com, I've recently discovered that some of my ancestors who claimed to be Finnish are actually Sami. According to wikipedia, The Sami people are the Arctic indigenous people inhabiting Sapmi, which today encompasses parts of far northern Sweden, Norway, Finland, the Kola Peninsula of Russia, and the border area between south and middle Sweden and Norway. The Sami are Europe's northernmost and the Nordic countries' only officially indigenous people.
I created this space to showcase my past work, chronicle my current projects, and share my inspiration.