This is my last post from this Sami town of Kautokeino – next week I will be moving to and starting a new job in Toronto. Exciting times indeed and I very much look forward to the new challenges and opportunities in my new job and hometown (not to mention seeing again my friends and colleagues). I lived in Kauto for 1,5 years; it wasn’t meant to be quite so short but this is the beauty of life – you never know what’s around the corner. It’s certainly been a deep learning curve being back in Sápmi (if curious, see some of the previous posts). Experiencing first hand some of the most profound challenges of reclaiming, rebuilding and decolonizing Sami society has been a very good reality check for which I can only be grateful for when I embark on the next part of my journey. There’s no need for eulogies, however, for I will be back. I am not leaving Sápmi, I’m only leaving Kautokeino and I want to say adieu with an architectural tour of the town.

This is Juhls, the first silver gallery in the entire county of Finnmark, built by a German couple in the 1950s, a little outside the town. The building is most amazing both outside and inside, nesting on banks of the Kautokeino river. (The photo was taken in May.)
Here are some of the gorgeous silver jewelry Juhls is famous for. They have great collections of both traditional Sami soljus (broaches) worn with a gákti and unique pieces inspired by the surrounding land such as lichen growing on stones.

But Juhls is not only about amazing jewelry. It's a home of many other creatures. This is a window in the gallery to the home of the four- and two-legged friends. In May the lambs were only a week old.
This old fellow was staring at us through the window to the gallery...
A huge wall art constellation, mostly made of rocks, still work in progress.
A big part of the gallery is the Oriental room, carpets and other items collected from trips to the Middle East. The connection to Sápmi? Nomadic peoples and cultures of course!
More Middle Eastern decor and design
A detail of the amazing curving ceiling of one of the several rooms. The copper pieces are in fact jewelry one can also purchase at the gallery.
Back in town, the construction site of the "Sami scientific building" that will house several Sami institutions such as the Sami College, Sami Archives and Sami Parliament's Language and Education Department. The ground-breaking ceremony was held last summer, in conjuction with the Sami University Conference (those were the days - I was one of the main organizers of the conference). The visit by the King of Norway, his highness Harald V, brought the project the missing millions and the construction was able to go ahead. The building was several times in the news in the spring - first the complaints that it was already too small for the present needs; then it turned out that the building is quite a bit bigger than originally planned (and thus, more expensive). The question was whether the Norwegian government pays the increased bill or stops the construction... Locally many people weren't happy about the colossal presence of the monster in the middle of town (it's far bigger than anything else in the entire town). My issue with the building since the beginning is the complete lack of taking into account of the surrounding landscape. It's supposed to be an indigenous institution and it's this massive square box on a hillside... Could be a Wal-Mart or any other big box store anywhere in the world. It's gloomy presence made someone suggest once it's the Ministry of Fear...
The irony is that my suggestion, Diehtosiida, was chosen as the name for the box. The winner was announced at the ground-breaking ceremony year ago. It's a mixed honour for many reasons, one of them being the inappropriateness of the architecture. Roughly translated, Diehtosiida means a gathering place for knowledge. Siida is a traditional Sami unit of self-determination. I submitted a long list of arguments to support the name that was only in Sami (not Sami and Norwegian as the instructions of the competition read). The challenge of course is, for people and the institutions inside, to meet the goals of being and becoming a siida, and making most of the synergies that hopefully fill the place after it's finished sometime next year.
Another irony - a sad one - is that the other new building in town, opened last month, the hotel's architecture reflects the surrounding landscape much more than Diehtosiida. The commercial business venture looks way more like an indigenous institution than the future building of (possible) Sami University... One can only wonder why.
The hotel on the other side. It has a round centre with a curving 'tail' intending to reflect the Northern lights. It's a beautiful building outside but a bit cramped inside; lots of unnecessary walls and doors and no open space (that would reflect the openness of the mountains the hotel sits on). The local newspaper tells they're doing well but I also heard a story that the restaurant stopped serving lunch only a month after opening, because they didn't have enough customers... What about some marketing, putting up signs on the main road informing the endless flow of RVs and other tourists there's a new hotel just opened??! Now there's nothing, not even a sign there is a hotel...
Our freshly painted house; our apartment is on left side of the ground floor. Owned by the state, drafty, never maintained (save the painting job). I'm still wondering what the rent money is used for - perhaps added to the government's oil fund for future generations?
The end - ready to go.
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2 thoughts on “farewell kauto

  1. interesting! I like the stone art wall in progress. Such creativity.

    How many buildings are there that do not take the landscape into consideration! Just the other day I walked by this house on a hill, the hill faces Nanabijou and Lake Superior, but the house faces the street!! No windows on the lake side.

    see you in Canada…

  2. I am still so sorry that you have left Guovdageaidnu, but on the other hand I hope you will find your new job interesting and meaningful.

    Gunvor

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