The Sámi Pavilion: Opening speech
Distinguished Presidents of the Sámi Parliaments of Finland, Sweden and Norway
Friends of the Arts
Lihkku beivviin! (Congratulations!)
It is a great pleasure for me to be back in this beautiful city. La Biennale di Venezia brings together people from all parts of the world, presenting cutting-edge contemporary art in a unique historical environment.
This year, we are reminded of the enduring importance of art and culture, as freedom and democracy are under attack in Europe in a manner not seen since the Second World War. I would like to express my solidarity with the people of Ukraine in their efforts to withstand Russia’s invasion.
Here, we are standing in front of the pavilion designed by the renowned Norwegian architect Sverre Fehn in 1962, today shared by Finland, Sweden and Norway.
Long before the concept of national borders emerged, the Sámi people of the European Arctic lived in the northern regions. They led a nomadic life — hunting, fishing, and following the seasonal migration of wild reindeer. Their culture and practices arose from their ties to the land and its resources.
The three artists presented in the Sámi Pavilion, Pauliina Feodoroff, Máret Ánne Sara and Anders Sunna, bear witness to the strong political awareness in Sámi art today. Their works draw attention to topics that indigenous peoples all over the world are facing. Issues like climate change, deforestation and identity rights. In this way, the artists raise the Sámi experience to a global level.
At the same time, these are fundamental issues highly relevant to us all as human beings.
The exhibition reflects the knowledge and traditions that have shaped Sámi ways of living and thinking across time. It opens a space where the artists use their creative power to challenge and inspire the Nordic societies of today.
For the Sámi people, the exhibition offers a unique opportunity to bring Sámi stories and worldviews to our attention. For the Nordic countries, it offers a message of mutual respect that all Nordic citizens can be proud of. For the international community, this is a strong reminder of how indigenous peoples contribute to the world’s philosophy and cultural expressions. It is also a journey into the core of art itself!
Sámi heritage is tangible and alive. It is visible in contemporary art and design, in rap music and modern architecture. Sámi art is about society. It is about life. And it is also about change.
But let us keep in mind that art production today does not take place in isolated studios, cultures or nations, nor in Sápmi – the homeland of the Sámi people.
On the contrary, art emerges through shared experiences and encounters.
I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to everyone who has worked to realize this special project: To the Curatorial Group, the Elders, to all collaborators and especially to the three artists. This exhibition provides a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the strength and innovation of the contemporary Sámi art community.
The iconic Sámi multi-artist Nils-Aslak Valkeapää once said: “When I paint, I hear it as music and words; when I make music, I see it as colours and words; when I write, music is in my head the whole time and I see colours. Different art forms are products of the same spirit, only carried out with different techniques.”
Nils-Aslak Valkeapää’s yoik Sápmi mountain plateaus has become the second Sámi national anthem, alongside the official one. I now invite you all to listen to this beautiful yoik.
I hope that while listening carefully, you will also be able to see colours and words – in the spirit of the composer.
Maybe you could see and feel the importance of Art? Art brings people together, building bridges that can give inspiration and comfort in difficult times?
It gives me great pleasure to declare the exhibition ‘The Sámi Pavilion’ open!
Ollu giitu! Thank you!