Sunday, 12 March 2017

Sami Blood

I have been interested in the Sami (the indigenous people of northern Sweden, Finland, Norway and Russia) for a while now. 

Recently I saw Sameblod (or Sami Blood in English). It's a Swedish/Sápmi language film about a teenage Sami girl called Elle-Marja who grows up at a time when the Swedish state were forcibly trying to integrate the Sami through compulsory education. Elle-Marja and her sister are sent to the nearby Swedish school, where the children are forbidden to speak Sápmi and must learn about Sweden and Christianity. Representatives from the state use the enforced schooling as an opportunity to take unpleasant biological measurements (at that time the prevalent belief was that the Sami were less intelligent, 'low-born' humans). The film tracks the Sami girl's life as she tries to navigate the two worlds and the situation she finds herself in.

The film forces Sweden to face a dark side of its past. My wife and I were deeply affected by it. I couldn't speak for half an hour afterwards (I had a frog firmly lodged in my throat!). 

The thing that stayed with me was Elle-Marja's sense of otherness: her feeling of being alone and self-conscious. 

The lead Lene Cecilia Sparrok received the youth prize of 5000 Kroner and a diploma from the Såhkie Sami organisation, who said "She is an enchantingly good example for other young Sami with her pride, her language and her courage to try new things". 

The Sami have had quite a bit of media attention in Sweden of late. Recently there has been a TV drama called Midnattsol , a documentary called Renskötarna ("Deer Herders"), a documentary about the Sami artist Sofia Jannok and a song with joyk (traditional Sami singing) just came third in Meolodifestivalen (the national competition where Sweden chooses its Eurovision song). 

My wife said she was taught nothing about the Sami at school, so it's good that some information is getting out there now!

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