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Doing it the Sami Way: Beassášmárkanat in Norway

This is the main contentNowadays, more activities like the Sami Grand Pix is added and the whole celebration becomes a big event known as Sami Easter Festival. The Nordic Page interviewed Klemet Anders Buljo, press contact and the producer of the Sami Easter Festival, to discover how Sami people celebrate Easter.

How do Sami people celebrate Easter traditionally?

Four hundred years ago or earlier, when the winter ended and spring came, Sami people used to come together. The place Kautokeino, which means “in the middle”, was one of the biggest gathering places. People got together i Kautokeino on Easter each year. Young people could find a date one year, get married and celebrate weddings next year, and a year later all the relatives were invited to celebrate a child birth. When people were together, everybody wanted to show they had the best reindeer, and they started to run the reindeer race and several sports attractions. This was how things started. It was not organized, it just happened.

What is the meaning of Easter for Sami people?

When the Sami people started the activities they are doing today during the Easter holiday time, they didn’t call it Easter. For Sami, when we talk about Easter, there is nothing to do with Christian tradition. It is more practical to meet during Easter now, as people are all having the holiday. And also it is before people move to the coast which will take several weeks. Sami people don’t stay in the same place; they are nomads which live by fishing and hunting. My father and his siblings live traditionally in lavvus. And they move twice a year with the reindeers. In spring they moved to the sea coast. That’s where the reindeer went, and they went after the reindeer. That was for people who work with reindeer, like my parents, my grandfather and his father and so on. People move with thousands of reindeers and their family. They have this small celebration before setting off. And also for the weather as we get the sun back again.

Photo: Tonynetone | A-Sami-Lapp-family-in-Norway-around-1900. Sami people’s Sami people’s existence was documented by such writers as the Roman historian Tacitus

How does the Sami people’s celebration get connected with Christian Easter?

Christians came in 12th century to do the missionary work and built churches around 16th and 17th century. And it was not allowed to joik. It has really been a problem as it was not allowed to joik at school until 70-80 ss. But if you go to the church in Kautokeino now, even when they sing Christian songs, which are composed in Austria, Germany or Denmark, sometimes you can hear the joik. It is so in their heart, the joik. It doesn’t matter what they sing, it sounds joik anyway. It is always like that when they don’t have organ. Even when they have organ, it is still very free and freezing.

When did people start the Sami Easter Festival?

In 1971, there were a group of local people with a famous artist in the lead who wanted to make a concert. His name was Áillohaš. He did paintings, made music and wrote poetry. He started this concert in a small sports hall at school. This concert has later become the biggest event in the Easter Festival. It started with a small joik concert, and since then has become one of the most important events of Sami music. In 1991, it started a competition called Sami Grand Pix. It is a competition with Sami musicians from Russia, Finland and Norway. For three years ago, I and my company started to produce this festival, we tried to work more with Russia and Finland to get more people and make the event bigger.

Photo:Bjarte Aarmo Lund Reindeer racing is a very popular sport in which people compete with each other with reindeers pulling sleds.

What is the influence of the Sami Grand Pix among Sami people and the society?

The Sami Grand Pix has two parts, the traditional part- the joik, and the modern part, which is joik with instruments. The level is getting better and better. The winner will get 20,000 kroner prize and 50,000 kroner to make a new concert one year later. This year, on the 17th of April, those two who won the Grand Pix last year will hold their concert. And then there will be a new competition and new winners, and they will give their concert next year. It was my idea. I worked with a band since 1991 as a musician, and I saw the talents went away and nothing happened with them. People didn’t see them after they won. So I wanted to do something about it, trying to get them on several stages around Europe and to get them out to gain experience of being an artist. We are trying to make this music festival more organized and more professional. We have 200 people working for this festival. It is the only way to survive. It is of course because of the audience, also good for the artists, and the business of the festival.

FACT BOX

Sami: The indigenous Finno-Ugric people inhabiting the Arctic area of Sápmi, which ranges from the North Norway, Sweden, Finland to Russia.

Joik: A traditional form of song for Sami people. The singing can be very personal and spiritual. It is attempting to reflect and evoke a person or a place. Under Christian period, joik was forbidden as it is seen as a sinful act.

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