Colors and figures crowd, as in a complex game of joints, the representation of an articulated scene which, by virtue of the formal choice of installation, makes the narrative interesting and mysterious. Illegal Spirits of Sámpi (2022) is the work in which Anders Sunna brings out the complex and dramatic history of the community of the Sami population that inhabits the border territories between Norway, Finland and Sweden. The series consists of several canvases that become the narrative tool chosen by the artist to tell the identity of a community minority and the past and present events that have marked and still marking its history.

In one of the different episodes – or details – of the extensive work, a group of Sámi seems intent on a dialogue: the protagonists are depicted wearing traditional clothes, with bright colors and complex embroidery; the group is approached by a man in formal clothes, perhaps wearing an official communication… The faces are never defined, the small white spots of paint hide the features and entrust the recognition of roles and actions to the posture and clothes alone.

Through backgrounds of color in which the materiality varies from more precise areas to areas in which the color becomes more material and the shapes more sketchy, the Sámi tradition emerges in the paintings of the series. The artist Anders Sunna, defining himself as a guerrilla reindeer herder, tells in his practice his identity and the struggle carried out for the protection of the rights of the Sámi, especially regarding the breeding of reindeer, often hindered by the different governments that manage the areas inhabited by the population. Each layer of color and representation corresponds to different events in their history: in this detail it is possible to see a reference to the implementation of the 1971 law in which Sweden and Norway limited the hunting and breeding of reindeer, despite this being the activity on which the different Sámi communities rely.

The Illegal Spirits of Sápmi is a project and a representation in which Sunna wants to give voice to his people: the traits, the colors and the structure of the image manage to restore the romantic attachment to one’s identity and on the other the intention to bring even the darkest events and clashes are brought to light. The work becomes documentation and narration: personal and collective history coexist, like modern hieroglyphs, in the story created by Sunna.


Anders Sunna,
Illegal Spirits of S
ápmi, Detail view, 2022
Installation Shots for ‘The Sámi Pavilion’ at the Nordic Pavilion, 59
th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, The Milk of Dreams © Photo: Micheal Miller / OCA


© Photo: Micheal Miller / OAC

© Photo: Micheal Miller / OCA