Photo exhibit at the Canadian Museum of Nature gives intimate insight into the Sámi reindeer herders of Norway
Who are the Sámi people? Photojournalist Fred Ivar Utsi Klemetsen brings you into the remote Arctic homeland of Norway’s indigenous people through a collection of 30 thoughtful photographs. The exhibition FROST: Life and Culture of the Sámi People, currently on view at the Canadian Museum of Nature, captures intimate moments of the work, traditions and way of life of the Sámi.
Klemetsen photographed his subjects over 16 years. The project offered a reconnection to his own heritage. His maternal relatives were Mountain Sámi, known for a long tradition of reindeer herding. His father’s family were Sea Sámi, descended from fishers and farmers who had settled along the coast.
The Sámi’s homeland stretches beyond Norway, through northern Scandinavia to the Kola Peninsula in Russia. Today, most Sámi people are integrated into modern society; however, many families continue reindeer herding and thus maintain an important part of Sámi identity.
"The Sámi people’s connection to nature and tradition is an important part of the Norwegian Arctic,” says Anne Kari Hansen Ovind, Norway's ambassador to Canada. “I hope the FROST exhibition will stimulate an interest in the Sámi people and increase knowledge about the diversity of the Arctic Region."
FROST: Life and Culture of the Sámi People first opened in Washington, D.C. in 2005 at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. It is currently presented by the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Ottawa
The reference to FROST in the exhibition’s title refers to the main photograph in the show where a reindeer herd appears almost ghostly amidst the bluish light of “frost-fog”. Other photographs offer intimate close-ups of the Sámi themselves: the far-off gaze of an elderly woman, a man insulating his otter-hide boots with dried grass, a bride and groom in colourful wedding attire, a Sami herder lassoing his reindeer, and more.
The perspective on indigenous Arctic peoples is also a focal point of the Museum’s new Canada Goose Arctic Gallery which opened on June 21 and explores the human connection to the land through four broad themes of geography, ecosystems, climate change and sustainability. The gallery was developed in consultation with representatives of Canada’s northern indigenous peoples.
“I am pleased for the opportunity to have this exhibition at the Canadian Museum of Nature”, says Klemetsen. “I have always had a dream of exhibiting in a country where other indigenous people can see the images and compare their own life to Sámi herders.”
The exhibition, which runs until January 7, 2018, is included in the museum’s general admission. Visitors can also look forward to a Nordic festival taking place at the museum from October 19 to 22. Details of the programming will be available on the museum’s web site nature.ca as well as through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram channels.
The museum is located at 240 McLeod Street in Ottawa and is open Tuesday through Sunday during the fall and winter months.