Eatnameamet – Our Silent Struggle (2021)

Eatnameamet – Our Silent Struggle (2021) is a documentary description of the Sámi policy of the Finnish state, the loss of Sámi culture and the Sámi struggle for its existence. It tells about the cultural genocide of the Sámi people and the non-violent struggle for the existence of the Sámi people. The film increases the understanding of the Sámi and how the rights of the Sámi are related to the rights of the land. If the indigenous people do not have access to nature, there are no indigenous people.

I’ve also notice the film listed as The AssimiNation on English-language movie databases.

According to director Doavtter-Piera Suvi Máret/Suvi West on the film’s website (Google translate):

Eatnameamet is the collective cry of distress for the Sámi. This film is born from my personal experience of living as a Sámi in this country. Time and time again I come across us on misinformation, prejudice and repressive structures. My people and culture are fighting a silent defense with accelerating colonialism. I felt that I, like other Sámi, had to do something for our future. The film Eatnameamet was born.

The story of colonialism is not my personal story. Nor is it the experience of any other individual Sámi. Exporting countries, forcing Finnishisation, destroying our way of life and narrowing our rights is a common pain for the entire Sámi people. This story could not be told through an individual, it would have been an understatement. As I listened to people, I realised we were in the pain of untreated trauma. For me, Eatnameamet is a collective cry for distress.

I’ve done a movie about love people, and Sámiland point. (Google translate? Perhaps, ‘I’ve made a movie about people I love and from the perspective of Sámpi?’) We Sámi have the right to be heard, but Finns also have the right to know about the Sámi and our situation. Knowledge increases understanding, and understanding is the starting point for the equal coexistence of two peoples in the same country. Ignorance is not the cause of any individual, but it is the fault of oppressive structures. I invite viewers to embark on this journey and step into the Sámi reality for a moment, where they have to fight quietly if they want the culture to be preserved for future generations.’

Eatnameamet sold out its online screenings at the recent 20th DocPoint Helsinki Documentary Film Festival (20 Jan. – 7 Feb., 2021). A webinar was organised to accompany these screenings, this following summary was posted on the documentary’s Facebook page (Google translate):

The weekend’s “Finns who think they own Sámiland” seminar can now be found on DocPoint’s YouTube account. Thank you Petra Laiti, Áslat Holmberg, Emmi Nuorgam and Matti Liimatainen for an important discussion. This was just the beginning, we are going to continue discussions about colonialism throughout the year!

In summary, the biggest difference between Sámi and Finnish land use is in efficiency. From a Sámi perspective, the land is in use, even if it is not built full of infrastructure, houses and mines. Finnish land use, on the other hand, is based on “development”, which often means plundering natural resources and resources. It is also important to ask who will benefit from land use projects?

❗Áslat stated perfectly in the discussion that, for the first time, the Eatnameamet is giving a face to colonialism and showing who is seeking to exploit resources. resurs
Outi Länsman also summarized the main points of our discussion on Twitter:
▪️In the Sámi region, many conflicts related to nature, the environment and land use are due to different perceptions and concepts of different parties.
▪️Researcher Päivi Magga has wisely written that when you want to study what the Sámi people see as culture, and what you want as nature, you have to look at it through the Sámi language.
▪️In conflicts, it is important to be aware of words, language and perceptions associated with words. For example, Northern Sámi does not actually have the word wilderness. If the word is not in the language, then it is not in the worldview either.
▪️Regional decisions on areas often lack a Sámi perspective and one may ask on whose terms the future of the Sámi will be decided?
▪️Sámi customary law is a matter that should be taken into account e.g. land law issues.

Northern Anticolonial Remix

I met with artist, journalist and activist Jari Tamminen at his exhibition and workshop series, Spektaakkeliakatemia, currently on at Stoa, Helsinki (30.10.2020—13.12.2020). He explained to me his ideas about how the language advertising is the lingua-franca of the globalised world. In his art-activist practice and workshops Tamminen considers ‘classic advertising’, such as the manipulation of text and image as seen on billboards and bus shelters, as a form of communication that is recognisable and understood internationally and across cultures. This is evident in the exhibition at Stoa, where a series of ‘subvertisements’ are rendered in languages that reflect those commonly spoken by teenagers who attended his workshops in East Helsinki, an area notable for its migrant communities and ‘cultural diversity’. Aside from Finnish, Swedish and English the posters featured texts in Russian, Turkish and French (a language commonly spoken amongst West African communities).

Tamminen, who studied marketing, further claims that as a modern and subliminal means of communication (and manipulation), advertising takes advantage of an innate awareness that we humans have about our surroundings. He has observed that when his students analyse advertising in his workshops they are often surprised at how many brands and trademarks they can recognise, even if they have never directly engaged with the commodities or services they represent.

I first met Tamminen at an exhibition he curated, Rájágeassin Demarkation, about Sámi art-activism at Sinne gallery Helsinki, August 2020. Here I was introduced to the work of Suohpanterror!, a Sámi collective using the tools of subvertising and meme propaganda to challenge the state and corporate marginalisation of Sámi people and their interests.

To think a little about the power dynamics of (visual) appropriation and remix: The ‘classic’ argument is that advertising is an invasive takeover of public space by private commercial interests. Culture jamming, ad-busting, subvertising and other similar strategies intervene and disrupt these processes, often with satire, and arguably speak truth back to power. To use Tamminen’s words these practices ‘punch up’, especially when people and communities are invisibilised, marginalised or misrepresented in the media and by the dominant narratives they uphold.

Tamminen discusses his work with Suohpanterror! on a campaign to confront Disney’s Frozen franchise. Disney’s production crew had visited Sámi lands late in 2016 as part of their research for the second animated feature, but had not properly consulted or sought permission from Sámi people. As Tamminen writes in Voima, a magazine freely distributed in Helsinki, Sámi clothing, jewellery and other artifacts were viewed and used, irritating historical and ongoing tensions about the appropriation and misrepresentation of Sámi culture.

Suohpanterror! and Tamminen’s poster campaign sustained a public debate about Disney taking more than just inspiration from the peoples of the North. Tamminen draws attention to the ‘Hat of Four Winds’, an example of traditional attire that has been appropriated and commodified in Finland, (notable by the tourism industry). One of the characters wears such a hat their Stolen campaign poster as a satirical speculation as to how Disney might also appropriate Sámi culture. Tamminen explains that when Disney were made aware these and other complaints they quickly responded. The producers sought to consult with a Sámi expert committee during the development of the animation, signing a contract as a commitment to portray their culture respectfully. Disney also dubbed the film into a Northern Sámi language. Jikŋon 2, was released in cinemas conjunction with the original language version of the film in Norway, December 2019.

Tamminen alerted me to a popular TV show Hymyhuulet (Smiling Lips) from the 1980s that featured ‘Nunnuka Nunnuka’ racist and derogatory caricatures of Sámi people. (Question: Why are they in Black-face?):

Sámi rapper, Ailu Valle responds to this racist media-cultural slur:

It’s worth noting that strategies of remix need not only be weaponised. For example fan-fiction and Karaoke employ methods of cut, copy, modify and paste to pay tributes, elaborate on fantasies and find affinities with characters, celebrities and other ‘public figures’. (As this project veers towards remix in music, I’m curious as to what is the tension between appropriation, admiration and meme-like acceleration of cultural productions).