Nordic-Southern collaboration between indigenous language literatures

Roađđi – Rosa boreal at World Village festival

The case of the poetry book Roađđi – Rosa boreal is a fresh example of international collaboration that offers interesting encounters between poetry in indigenous languages and widely spoken world languages. In the next World Village festival in a discussion called Valtakielten varjosta / Sámi literature travels to Latin America  we will talk about literary collaborations that succeed to cross language barriers based on this project.

With Roađđi – Rosa boreal, Sivuvalo project has found a way to collaborate between different non-dominant languages in a way that has been valuable for all the involved parts.”

Spanish speaking poets with residence in Finland Zoila Forss, Daniel Malpica and Roxana Crisólogo translated Inger-Mari Aikio’s and Niillas Holmberg’s poems that were originally written in Northern Sámi into Spanish. The translations were done with help of a third language, Finnish or English, and  conversations between the poets supported the work. The results were published as a trilingual book Roađđi – Rosa boreal that required many kinds of collaborations from funding to printing and distribution. Roađđi – Rosa boreal is the 4th  book of Sivuvalo’s non-profit multilingual publishing project called Karu Kartonera. The development process involved authors, translators, proofreaders and artists.  The printing was made possible thanks to the collaboration of Stadin Ammattiopisto, a vocational school in Helsinki, whose students in printing technology took care the printing process of the book as their final work. Daniel Malpica, one of Sivuvalo’s creative forces, took care of the book’s edition and design.

Roađđi – Rosa boreal is a book published by Sivuvalo with Inger-Mari Aikio’s and Niillas Holmberg’s poems. The book includes both the original Northern Sámi versions and translations to Spanish and English.
Niillas Homberg at Mexico City reading his poems, at the First World Encounter of Indigenous People’s Poetry. Photo: Roberto Malpica 2016

Part of the collaboration was Aikio’s and Holmberg’s trip to Mexico, where they presented the book and their own poems in Spanish versions at the First World Encounter of Indigenous People’s Poetry’ (El Primer Encuentro Mundial de Poesía de los Pueblos Indígenas).  This offered a special possibility of communication for the poets who could then read their own poetry in a language understood by the Mexican audience and many of the other poets of the festival.

The discussion at World Village festival will present the case of Roađđi – Rosa boreal as a book and as a project. We will also reflect on the future of indigenous and non-dominant language literatures focusing in the Nordic countries.

The situation of Sámi writers can be improved

The situation of Sámi writers varies a lot from one country to another, but in many cases the state-supported literary institutions’ rules do not adapt well to the transnational character of Sámi literature. A book in Sámi language can be written in Sweden’s side of Sápmi (the areas traditionally inhabited by the Sámi people), by a Sámi poet who is officially a Finnish national, and published in Norway, the country where most of the Sámi publishing houses are located. The literary export organizations in the Nordic countries administrate also the state-funded translation support for literature. In their work, either focusing on only one national language (like NORLA in Norway) or on the country where the books are are published, creates barriers for Sámi literature that can only be resolved with the modernization of the rules that takes into account its transnational character.  In the meanwhile, support decisions based on exceptions are a possible but fragile way of granting the necessary support.

In January 2017, the project Multilingualism and Diversity as a Resource in the Cultural Field discussed about including Sámi language to NORLA’s Export and Translation Support.

In Finland, the monolingualism of the two writers’ unions has contributed to the marginal position of Sámi writers. Still, Sámi literature has got also new visibility through initiatives like Turku book fare 2015, where Sámi literature was one of the book fare’s principal themes, or Finland’s literary export organization FILI’s way to promote Sámi literature abroad despite of the problems with the rules that do not adapt so well to the Nordic borders. In Norway where most Sámi language books are published, the literature written in Sámi is not included in the export and translation support scheme of Norwegian literary export organization NORLA. This problem is acknowledged by NORLA that seeks for ways to resolve the export situation of Sámi poets (see link 6 below).

What kind of Nordic futures can we build for non-dominant language literatures?

In the discussion, we´ll think of initiatives, international and domestic collaborations that could be relevant for Sámi literature today. How could the mainstream literary institutions best support the parallel literary fields, which are for many Nordic citizens still invisible? The same questions can be asked regarding the literature of immigrant languages like, literature written in Spanish or Arabic; languages that are marginal here, but with bridges to worldwide language communities of hundreds or tens of millions of speakers and readers.  With Roađđi – Rosa boreal, Sivuvalo project has found a way to combine two (from the Finnish perspective) non-dominant languages with very different global positions, and done it in a way that has been valuable for both.

Participants at World Village Festival’s discusssion

Daniel Malpica (Mexico City, 1988): poet and graphic designer based in Finland. Co-coordinator, producer and designer of Sivuvalo project and member of NolitchX project. Author of the books Paréntesis (RDLPS, 2007), Marduk: Senectus Signum (2009) and Ex-Aether (Molinos de, 2012). Founder and ex-chief editor of literary magazine [Radiador]. Board member and co-founder of Globe Art Point, an new platform that supports international art and culture workers in Finland.


Inger-Mari Aikio 
Poet, journalist and film-maker based in Ivalo, author of 7 poetry books one of which was nominated for the Nordic literary prize in 2001:
Gollebiekkat almmi dievva / Taivas täynnä kultaisia tuulia, DAT 1989
Jiehki vuolde ruonas gidda / Ikijään alla viheriöivä kevät, DAT 1993 Silkeguobbara lákca / Silkkitatin kermaa, DAT 1993
Máilmmis dása /Maailmalta tähän, DAT 2001
Suonat / Suonet (DAT 2008)
Beaivvás cuohká gaba / Aurinko juo kermaa, book + cd 2014).

Outi Korhonen
(moderator of the discussion and writer of this text). Coordinator of the project Multilingualism and Diversity as a Resource in the Cultural field.  

Sámi literature travels to Latin America / Valtakielten varjosta
World Village Festival
Sat 27.5.2017 19.00–19.45
Amazon Stage
Language: English