Perspectives on Indigenous Struggles in Art & Law
As part of the 2019 Bergen Exchanges on Law & Social Transformation, the CMI-UiB Centre on Law & Social Transformation – LawTransform – and Kunstgarasjen co-hosted an exhibition of Per Adde’s art, and three events to place focus on the role of art as a political strategy in struggles over natural resources and indigeneous rights. This was made possible through the hard work of a dedicated team, financial support from by Fritt Ord, Bergen Universitetsfond, UiB Global Challenges, Bergen kommune and Hordaland fylkeskommuneand collaboration with the Bergen Sami Society (Bergen Sameforening).
This was the first comprehensive exhibition showing the art of Per Adde (1926 -) in Bergen. It ran from 16 August to 8 September 2019 and gave a unique insight into Adde’s extensive work, where life and work are inextricably linked in an engagement with nature and against the forces that threaten life in the wilderness and the traditional ways of life of Sami reindeer herders.
As artist Birthe Marie Løveid observes, “When you look into the large, colourful landscape paintings you not only see reindeer in flight and the nature that opens up to the seasons – you also see the pressure from the inside. The scarlet mind, the greenish security, and the cobalt blue grief. Per Adde is the landscape, and painting is his language.”Per Adde himself says that “preferably, I want people to meet my pictures directly, realize that words are not necessary. The endless variety of nature’s shapes and colours, the richness of life and movement, give me important impulses. It becomes a kind of catalyst in my work, where I try to formulate my experiences and my sense of life in a picture, with pictorial means.”
More than 300 people attended the opening night of the exhibition, where Rakel Surlien, Minister of Environmental Affairs in Norway from 1983 to 1986, gave the opening speech, emphasizing Adde’s key role in establishing the Saltfjellet-Svartisen National Park. The audience could enjoy musical performances by Anne Margrethe T. Hausvik and Snorre Bjerch, who had composed music for the occasion in Adde’s honour. In a conversation with Ole Frithjof Norheim, Per Adde discussed his art and political engagement – and the relationship between the two.
Throughout much of his life and through his art, Per Adde has been strongly involved in struggles for environmental protection and the rights of the Sami people. He took active part in the Alta campaign in the early 1980s and was awarded the King’s Medal for contribution to establish the Norland National Parks. For Adde, art and social and political engagement are closely linked, but at the same time independent in an art that is uncompromising in its artistic expression.
In addition to the opening night, several events were organized at Kunstgarasjen in conjunction with the exhibition. On 20 August, as part of the Bergen Exchanges program, LawTransform hosted a public seminar on Indigenous struggles in art and law. It drew a good crowd who were treated to joik as well as intellectual insights from Ande Somby, recitation of poems by the Guatemalan indigenous scholar and activist Irma Velasquez Nimatuj, and a lively discussion where Somby, Eva Marie Fjellhem and Ana Branconnier exchanged views on the role of art in indigeous struggles for recognition and rights.
Several articles were written about the exhibition – including in Klassekampen, Bergens Tidende and other news outlets.. Several of them highlighted that before the call from LawTransform, Per Adde though he had his last exhibition. But to have his first solo-exhibition in Bergen, as part of the Bergen Exchanges was an offer he could not refuse.
Thanks to thorough planning and good collaboration, the exhibition was also very successful in terms of audience support. As mentioned, more than 300 guests attended the opening on 16 August. There were also good audiences at the other events and generally during the exhibition period.