Artstate Lismore 2017: Q&A with Karoline Trollvik

Karoline Trollvik

Regional Arts NSW are presenting a stimulating program of regional, national and international speakers for Artstate Lismore 2017. The four-day conference and arts program will shine a light on excellence in regional arts practice and provide an opportunity to explore the exciting possibilities for arts and cultural development across NSW.

Karoline Trollvik is one of many international speakers who will be giving a keynote address at the conference. Karoline is the Director of the Riddu Riđđu Festival in the far north of Norway, an event that celebrates the local First Nations people, the Sámi, and draws attendees from right around the world.

We interviewed Karoline to find out what audiences can expect from Artstate Lismore 2017.

You’re the Festival Director for the Riddu Riđđu Festivala in Norway. Can you tell us more about this Festival and the role it plays in celebrating Sámi culture and bringing together other First Nations people?

In 1991, a group of Sámi youths with a sense of idealism started an event in Kåfjord that would later turn into the Riddu Riđđu Festival. These Sámi youths were searching for their identity and their roots and had started questioning why being Sámi was seen as something shameful in the area. Their Sámi background was not spoken about, even though Sámi was the mother tongue of many of their grandparents. They decided to rather be proud of their coastal Sámi background and had this brilliant idea of celebrating it through music, arts and culture.

By turning the previous negative connotations of Sámi culture into something positive, celebrated and cool, they attracted more and more people who were curious about contemporary Sámi arts and culture. Today, 26 years later, Sámi culture is recognized as an important part of the region’s history and a factor of contemporary life in Kåfjord.

Riddu Riđđu has played a crucial role in enlightening younger generations and fostering self-confidence in Sámi youths that are now comfortable and proud of their Sámi background and identityAs the positive effect of the Festival started taking ground in the area and further nationally, the audiences and program also grew. The organisers broadened the focus to also include other Indigenous artists and participants with a heavy focus on the arctic regions of the world. They realised that culture and music is a powerful tool in creating positive awareness for minorities and that festivals are an important informal arena to discuss problematic issues and share experiences. The international aspect has grown, and Riddu Riđđu today is part of a broad network of Indigenous organisations and artists around the world.

You’re providing a keynote address on Creative Partnerships at Artstate Lismore. Can you tell us more about your keynote address?

I will be talking about my own experience as a young Sámi who has grown up with a strong Indigenous festival like Riddu Riđđu in my area. Further, I’ll be talking about the Festival from the perspective of the Artistic Director. I will discuss the significance of Riddu Riđđu in our community, across all generations but particularly amongst youth, but also in a regional, national and international sense.

It is an event that roots us to our place and culture as Sámi and at the same time it connects us to people from other cultures and opens our eyes to the rest of the world. Olmmáivággi, our village, has a year-round population of 500 people, but draws approximately 5000 international and national participants during the week of Riddu Riđđu. It is a melting pot of artistic expressions, people-to-people collaboration, new friendships across cultures and borders, all within a framework of creating something that is bigger than ourselves.

Indigenous peoples and minorities all over the world share many of the same trajectories, particularly cultural assimilation. Through our own struggle we want to inspire others to continue to fight for their cultural rights, and to be acknowledged as an important and equal part of the multicultural contemporary world.

What do you hope audiences take away from your talk?

I hope it will be inspiring to hear about how events like Riddu Riđđu can play a crucial role in enlightening younger generations and fostering self-confidence in Indigenous youths that are now comfortable and proud of their Sámi background and identity.

Also the positive effects the Festival creates for the community as a whole. I think it is safe to say that Riddu Riđđu is the greatest achievement made in the past 30 years in our municipality when it comes to giving local people and outsiders a like a positive attitude towards our culture and region.

The Festival attracts more and more people who are curious about contemporary Sámi arts and culture, and who are searching for their identities in similar ways as the pioneering youths who initiated Riddu Riđđu. I also think that Riddu Riđđu has dared to let young people lead the way and bring us into the future.

What are you looking forward to seeing at the Artstate Lismore Conference and Festival? Why is it important to you to be participating in this Conference?

I always get inspired meeting other Indigenous artists and cultural workers and hearing about how people are creating positive change for their communities. We are constantly developing our Festival and it is dependent on the collaborations and the network of people who support our work and help us evolve, especially in an international context. Riddu Riđđu has created an important arena where Sámi people can meet other Indigenous peoples from other areas of the world. As our famous singer Mari Boine said in an interview to The Guardian “When we compare ourselves to Norwegians, we feel very different, but when we compare ourselves to other Indigenous people around the world, we don’t feel so alienated.”

Early Bird registrations for Artstate Lismore have been extended until Monday 23 October, 11:30PM. Join the conversation and celebrate the arts in regional NSW at Artstate Lismore, from 30 November – 3 December. Register here.

An exciting line up of speakers will inspire, provoke and stimulate accompanied by a diverse arts program showcasing the best of this creative region.

Artstate NSW is supported by the NSW Government through Create NSW


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