A dedicated space will bring together indigenous groups and nations from around the world to connect and share knowledge during this year’s Venice Biennale, an art exhibition held every two years in the Italian city.
In previous years, the Nordic Pavilion has represented Norway, Finland and Sweden, all of which are part of Sápmi, the traditional territory of the indigenous Sámi people. This year, the pavilion was renamed the Sámi Pavilion.
For Liisa-Ravna Finbog, co-curator of the pavilion, this move is significant because the Biennale is a space where stories about indigenous peoples have often been told from an outside perspective.
“Now we’re coming in and not decolonizing as much as we’re indigenizing, bringing our stories to the fore, centering all that makes our communities indigenous and sharing that with the world,” Finbog said.
Finbog is a Sami scholar and duojar (Sámi storyteller and knowledge holder) from Oslo, Vaapste and Skánit in the Norwegian part of Sápmi.
The pavilion will feature three Sami artists: Pauliina Feodoroff, an artist, theater manager, Sami land keeper and politician, with roots in the Finnish and Russian parts of Sami; Máret Ánne Sar, a visual artist and author based in Guovdageaidnu, in the Norwegian part of Sápmi, who comes from a family of reindeer herders who fought to protect their herds from state-sanctioned slaughter, which influences deeply his work; and Anders Sunna, who comes from a family of forest reindeer herders in Kieksiäisvaara on the Swedish side of Sápmi and chronicles the exploitation of land and natural resources through painting, graffiti and sculpture.
As part of the extended Sami Pavilion programme, there will also be a four-day aabaakwad gathering. Aabaakwad (“he emerges after a storm” in Anishinaabemowin) is an annual Indigenous-led gathering on art that alternates between Toronto and international venues.
Wanda Nanibush, co-founder of the aabaakwad event, is the curator of Indigenous art at the Art Gallery of Ontario and acts as an international advisor to the Sami pavilion.
The expanded program will include performances, talks, poetry and music from artists Rebecca Belmore, Stan Douglas, Jeremy Dutcher, Jeffrey Gibson, New World Order and more.
“This will give real presence and visibility to Indigenous peoples in support of this type of movement for Sami sovereignty and the aabaakwad itself as a sovereign space in the international art world as well as Indigenous artists. “, said Nanibuh.
The Venice Biennale starts on April 23 and will run until November 27.