Gulahallan ja birgen was an exhibition at The Sami Center for Contemporary Art Kárášjohka/Karasjok featuring Berit Kristine Andersen Guvsám, Gunvor Guttorm, Laila Susanna Kuhmunen.
The exhibition was the product of a two-year collaboration within AIDA, or Arctic Indigenous Arts and Design Archives—an archive consisting of materials taken from the practices of different craftspeople. For this exhibition, Berit Kristine Andersen Guvsám, Gunvor Guttorm, and Laila Susanna Kuhmunen engaged in dialogue with the materials compiled within the archive.
Luleå Biennial 2022 commissioned filmmaker Karl-Oskar Gustafsson to capture and reflect on the exhibition and the researcher’s process.
The following text is by Gunvor Guttorm and expands further on the process leading up to the Gulahallan ja birgen exhibition.
The background for the exhibition was the AIDA II (Arctic Indigenous Arts and Design Archives) project. AIDA is a collaboration between Ájtte, Ruoŧa Duottar-ja Sáme musea/ Ájtte Swedish Mountain and Sámi Museum in Johkamohkis/Jokkmokk, Sámi arkiiva/The Sámi Archives in Anár/Inari and Sámi allaskuvla/Sámi University of Applied Sciences Guovdageaidnu /Kautokeino. The aim of the project, through donations of duojárat personnel, was to create an archive with a Sámi profile. The Ájtte museum and Sámi Archives were responsible for collecting the archives. Sámi University of Applied Sciences’ contribution was to analyse the archives, and based on these studies make interpretations for creating new duodji articulations. It was primarily Berit Kristine Andersen Guvsám and Laila Susanna Kuhmunen, scientific assistants in the project that worked with the archives, while Gunvor Guttorm was project manager and academic supervisor. In addition to analysing duojáres archive and to subsequently generate new expressions, Sámi University of Applied Sciences’ objective was to further recognise duodji as a form of cultural output as well as sustainable trade.
In the exhibition, we engaged with several aspects of duodji, but emphasised what materials and collaboration mean, collaboration both as a field of knowledge as well as socially and economically.
Throughout the whole project, theory and practice were intertwined within the framework of artistic research. We emphasised the process, where the final product, as we see it, would not have been possible without the process. During the process of the research and work, we have asked ourselves over-and-over how the personal archives of various duojárat can provide new perspectives on duodji, where new narratives are generated.
During the course of the project, the focus on sustainability became more and more important, both in terms of cultural/social, economic and ecological sustainability. We wanted to see sustainability expressed in the Sámi everyday life. Within the everyday, is also where the Sámi languages are found, and in this project, we recognise how language, everyday life and duddjon go hand-in-hand.
When it comes to duodji, it has not detached itself from everyday life, precisely since there has never been a division between everyday life and what is separated from it.
The title of our exhibition has associations with sustainability. Gulahallan is often translated as communication. To some degree it can be understood as such, and within communication is also gullat (listen to), gulahallat (come to an understanding, agree on). Here it is not just about interpersonal gulahallan, but also about nature, the material. Birget, on the other hand, can be translated as making do, it can be social, economic, and ecological. Divdna atnit again explains how we use resources and knowledge in a way that is resourceful, for example, using materials so that there is no waste, to use things fully, and, preferably, to reuse  (see Guttorm ja Labba 2008, divdna atnit). And we have also emphasised an understanding of divvdna atnit as valuing the knowledge of the duojárat who share their know-how through their archives.
All of these concepts can provide an understanding of sustainability in a Sámi context.
Throughout the project, we produced several individual parts, but still what was presented at the exhibition should be viewed as one context. However, throughout the process we also had common assignments. The whole AIDA project started when the Covid pandemic hit the world, and in the first year we could not always meet, and in particular we could not visit Finland due to travel restrictions. We therefore decided that when the occasion arises, we would travel to the Sámi archive, and in addition meet some of the duojárat who have donated their archives.
During the course of the project, Berit Kristine Andersen Guvsám and Laila Susanna Kuhmunen had reflected that for many duojárat the material is a vital part of duodji, and also that belonging to certain areas and land was important. We wanted to investigate the significance of the land, and therefore we chose roots as a common material and as a starting point for conversations about sustainability. We saw that tåg/root was a common area of interest for all three of us, but root as a material also contained thoughts about the season (when you collect and gather the roots), landscape (which area you are looking in, but also which area you feel familiar in), and time (that you are allowed to collect and harvest the material). It is also in this context that we see that one must gulahallat eatnamiin, know the land in order to understand it, and also understand what kind of stories are connected to a specific area. Roots can also be understood metaphorically, i.e. how we understand ourselves, both us as individuals, and the duojára who have donated their archives. Our conversations with duojárat who had placed their archives at The Sámi Archives in Inari gave us an understanding of the cultural sustainability of working in a specific location.
Artistic research in relation to duodji can have much in common with artistic development work. We spend time acquiring knowledge, we spend time on testing and prototyping with materials, on designing and finally a finished product that is presented together with a written reflection. In a duodji context, and in our case, improvisation had been an approach, as we had not pre-planned everything, we let the road be made as we went along. At the same time, we challenged ourselves to see what can be meant by starting from the everyday life where people are. In our own way, we have linked our expressions to the places, the areas and to the people who live in the areas.
— Guttorm, Gunvor & Labba, Solveig, Ávdnasis duodjin : dipmaduodjesánit, Guovdageaidnu 2008
Gulahallan ja birgen is part of Urgent Pedagogies Issue#6: Earthed Imagination
Gunvor Guttorm & Solveig Labba, Ávdnasis duodjin : dipmaduodjesánit, Guovdageaidnu 2008.
who has a master’s degree from Sámi allaskuvla, works in Kautokeino today. In her duodji work, she uses materials like textiles and hides.
is a professor of doudji at the Sámi allaskuvla/Sámi University of Applied Sciences in Kautokeino. She does practical duodji work alongside writing about the practice of duodji and its role in Sami society.
takes a variety of approaches to duodji. Her explorative and experimental work happens at House of Duodji, which is based in Jokkmokk.
Luleå Biennial 2022, Craft & Art: https://www.luleabiennalen.se/en/2022