Kautokeino, the personal touch
One of the nicest things about going anywhere as a stranger, is being welcomed into someone's home.
Gerlinde Thiessen was my wonderful home-touch in Kautokeino! We met last year at the 2013 Finnfest in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Gerlinde's boyfriend, Bernt, is a singer in the Sámi Jienat choir, whose members are made up of Sámi across Norway, Finland and Sweden, and works for the Sámi National Theatre, or, in Sámi, the Beaivváš Sámi Našunálateáhter. When I visited, he was on a tour with the group. A loooong tour, which included the major cities and the northern cities of Norway, Sweden and Finland, but also… Tokyo.
Gerlinde is an artist herself. She is German, and originally came to the area hiking, I believe (correct me if I'm wrong anywhere, please, Gerlinde). Then, she hired on at an absolutely amazing silversmith there in town, called Juhls Silvergallery. That place alone could tell a story that would fill a volume! In fact, you can take a walk through by watching this youtube video:
It is obviously an amazing structure designed and built by very artistic people. The building itself is a kind of organic growth that spans various stages and developments in the Juhls' lives. Each floor is like a strata that houses a different flavor of decoration, and a different design of silver. In the oldest part -- near the workshops and the register (which was beautiful in its own right -- and made in Ohio!), the owners housed a little, personal museum -- textiles, reindeer leather and doudji, antique Sámi spoons and other items. Very interesting, and of high artistic quality. These were not for sale, but more than once, I wished I were not on such a strict budget because the silver products in the shop were of surpassing quality! But my eyes and ears would have to hold the free treasures of beauty from this northern world.
Gerlinde also drove me to another silversmith in town, and a weaving and knitting shop known as Avži Design, just outside of Kautokeino.
May Toril is the owner and operator of Avži Design. It is on her husband's farmland. A little red shop, cheerful on the inside and out. Inside, I admired her knitting and weaving handwork, and then Gerlinde and I sat down for a nice chat with her. I learned much about the community and history, from Kautokeino's "Bible," that is, a sort of telephone directory of the generations of Sámi in the area, their ups and downs. Seriously. This book tells the births and deaths of everyone in the community, back, perhaps five generations. It is like the begets of the first chapter of Matthew. And, just like that chapter, a few little zingers are stuck in there -- bits of gossip.
I learned about some people I was studying from the area, but also, more about the Kautokeino Rebellion.
But, if I ever want to get this on my website, I will have to wait for another day to discuss that!