After watching Eatnameamet (2021) I learned that there was more to the lávvu than I initially understood. Often described as a ‘tent-like structure, similar to the Tipi’ there are some significant differences. In terms of structure, according to Rebecca Emmons’ (Risten) article ‘An Investigation of Sami Building Structures Sami Building’.
Because of the strong winds of the Scandinavian tundra the lavvu has to endure much more structural stress than the tipi. The lavvu cover is traditionally made of reindeer pelts sewed together with a bone needle and guy thread. It also has a number of arched lateral supports that absorb the wind load. The tent is also more centered to the ground compared to the lofty upward reaching tipis. Comparing the tipi to the lavvu proportionally, the lavvu is much wider at the base than tall, allowing it to be one of the most stable structures among the world’s indigenous peoples. The lavvu entrance consists of an attachable door that always faces away from the prevailing winds. Yet another example of uniquely adaptive climatic structures, the door is then reinforced with wooden slats to provide a firm covering that permits quick and easy access.
What struck me was the symbolism of the lávvu as a cultural haven. According to its Wikipedia entry:
The lavvu played a prominent role in two events during the 20th century as more than just a shelter. The first was at the end of World War II during the winter of 1944/45 when the German troops retreated westward across northern Norway, burning most of the housing in Finnmark and eastern Troms counties before the Russian Red Army. Because of this destruction, many Sami lived in lavvus for many years afterward because of the lack of housing and unemployment from this period…
The second event was when the lavvu was used during the Alta controversy in Norway from 1979 to 1981. A lavvu was set up in front of the Storting (Norwegian Parliament Building) which became an international focal point as several Sami went on a hunger strike to protest the proposed dam project that would have destroyed reindeer grazing grounds of the Sami herders in the area and inundated the Sami village of Máze. This lavvu became center stage in the political fight for Sami indigenous rights … This conflict gave birth to the Sami Rights Committee which addressed Sami legal rights within Norway, resulting in the Sami Act of 1987. This in turn became the foundation for the Sámediggi (Sami Parliament of Norway), a democratically elected body for the Sami in Norway in 1989, and the Finnmark Act of 2005.
(Having grown up in Australia, this history reminds me of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, set up in front of the Australian Parliament, Canberra, 1972. This also opens up another thread related to protest infrastructure.)
The Sámediggi recalls the lávvu in its architecture. Designed by the architects Stein Halvorsen and Christian Sundby after winning the Norwegian Government’s call for projects in 1995, the building was inaugurated in 2005.
Arguably it is this history of shelter and struggle that Sofia Jannok also recalls and promotes in her recent single, Lávvu.