Jenni Laiti


Forewalkers is based on the Sámi philosophy of the agreeable life (soabala eallin): preserving, protecting and supporting diversity in both nature and humans. Jenni Laiti and Outi Pieski have made their own borderless fence from walking sticks. In Sápmi, walking sticks traditionally have been used to mark reindeer calves in the bare mountains. Thus, this artwork references praxis which decolonises Sámis’ land by defining its borders. This piece also pays homage to the Sámi ancestors, who wandered before the artists and are their forewalkers. Their legacy is alive in Sámi culture today.
Jenni Laiti: Forewalkers. 2016. Environmental Art Park Ii. Photo: Antti J.Leinonen.

Laiti’s and Pieski’s work represents the visible and invisible borders in Sápmi, a nation divided among four countries. In this time of a global refugee crisis, Laiti and Pieski ask who is allowed to go through borders. This piece also deals with the Sámi’s right to self-determination. Who has the right to determine the borders of Sámi land and govern inside those borders?.

Jenni Laiti (b. 1981) is a Sámi activist, artisan and artist who also works with the Sámi language. She was born in Inari and lives in Jokkmokk in northern Sweden with her family. She has a degree in Sámi handicrafts and studies Sámi culture at Umeå University. Laiti works at the interface of activism and art and sees art as a tool for activism. Her work is a mixture of cultural intervention, installations, and performative direct action, dealing with colonialism, decolonialism, climate justice, and the Sámi people’s rights to their own culture and land. Laiti is also a member of the ‘Suohpanterror’ collective, known for its controversial, provocative propaganda posters. She is an active member in the global climate movement and in the movement against mines in Sweden.

Outi Pieski (b. 1973) is a visual artist who lives in Utsjoki and Helsinki, Finland. She studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki and graduated in 2000. Pieski’s artworks include paintings, collages and installations. The theme of her works is often northern nature. In her art, Pieski does not see nature as the opposite of culture or as a separate dimension from the human world. Her organic, ornamental painting style makes canvases look as if they have been embroidered with colours. The tassels of Sámi shawls frame some of her paintings. Pieski thus connects her artworks to a specific cultural context. In installations, Pieski represents light and nature with structures made of yarn and branches. In previous works, she has combined bones, Sámi handicrafts and ornamental quilts. The end results are imaginary dwelling places. Her recent works emphasised the conception of nature in the Arctic area of Sápmi as a cultural environment, not as unspoiled wilderness.


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