Political Art Driven by Love, Vástádus eana/ The answer is land

Vástádus eana/ The answer is land is coming February 18 for a special one-night-only performance in the Fringe Theatre Arts Barns. The piece comes from Norway and is touring Canada. This is a special co-production by Fringe Theatre and Mile Zero Dance. 

Created by Elle Sofe Sara, the piece was inspired by a poem. Read all about it, and get your tickets today.

A bunch of Artists pose with megaphones outside.
Photo by Antero Hein.

Speaking of the inspiration for the piece, Elle Sofe Sara describes that, “The Answer is Land is a poem that I came across a few years ago. The poem is part of an artwork called Kiss From the Border by Jenni Laiti, Niillas Holmberg and Outi Piesku, where eight lines of poetry were placed along the Deanu river valley, on the border between Finland and Norway. The Kiss From the Border project caught my attention because it is political and activist art that is driven by love rather than anger.”

land is the question, the answer is land
scoop the water along the stream, cut the branches along the grain
let the river be the bridge
clean water, the sacred song
lucky feather as an amulet
only take what’s needed
the answer is land

gažaldat eana, vástádus eana
álo álmmastit miehterávdnjái, miehtemurrii álo njáskat
johka ieš min šaldi
buhtes čáhci, sáivaluohti
leavvedolgi várjalussan
váldit dušše maid dárbbaša
vástádus eana

Rájácummá – Kiss from the Border
Niillas Holmberg, Jenni Laiti and Outi Pieski.

“Love and connection to nature, our surroundings and people are important to me, as I live in a Sámi village and society,” Elle Sofe Sara explains, “I had an urge to create a dance and yoik experience where connection to the place (the land, nature) and togetherness are the main themes. That’s the starting point of this project.

The yoiks (Sámi traditional songs) are mountain yoiks and yoiks relating to nature. Some are from archives, some composed by Frode Fjellheim, one of the yoiks performer Sara Marielle and I have learned from an elder, and one of the yoiks is composed by me. It feels truly extraordinary that these yoiks, that come from all over Sámi, are yoiked, heard and get a space in the public each time we meet an audience.

Often people ask me how they should define or look at my work: is it dance, is it a performance concert, theatre or what? In my opinion there is no need to define. Vástadus eana/ The answer is land is its own.

Let yourself be carried away, feel and experience it!”

Headshot of Elle Sofe Sara
Artistic Leader & Choreographer, Elle Sofe Sara.

Elle Sofe Sara describes the piece as a form of protest but notes that, “It is important to distinguish that there is a difference between Vástádus eana and actual activist movements. This is an artistic work that is meant to pay tribute to all the people resisting when there is injustice towards themselves, others or the land. A tribute to all the people who engage to make the world a better place, in mass movements or in everyday life.”

Working on the piece, Elle Sofe Sara describes how she’s worked with indigenous and non-indigenous performers. “In Vástádus eana I collaborate with Sámi and Norwegian performers. Many people ask me why I don’t work with Sámi dancers. Sometimes I work with Sámi dancers but for me it is most important that the key artists in projects are Sámi, like me, the composer, costume- and light designer are in this project. I truly feel that all the performers and other collaborators have an understanding and respect to where I come from, culturally and artistically.”

In a piece titled ‘If the answer is land, what is the question?’ the former president of the Sámi Parliament of Norway, Áili Keskitalo, writes that, “One of the characteristics of Indigenous peoples is the relationship to an area, the ties to the land. The certainty of where you belong, the knowledge of where your grandmother cut shoe grass, where your great-grandfather had his salmon place, which bogs your mother picked arctic berries on, where the summer pastures of your family is, all this tells something about who you are.

As you walk through the landscape, you remember who went before you, and the stories about them. You hear the yoik inside you, you may yoik yourself. Fate and history may have taken your foremothers to new areas, yet you always carry with you the memory of the land that was. This memory can be both beautiful and painful.

We can still experience being forcibly displaced, chased away from our country. But today, also modernity can take us away from the land. Life offers us something else, something that may seem better. In this way, the ties to the land can be broken. If we remove ourselves from the land, is the land removed from us? Who are we then?

In my hometown the sky is bigger than anywhere else I have been. Here I breathe more freely, every step I take is familiar, yet I always find something new. The country is changing, growing around me. What should be a tundra, a treeless mountain plain, is growing trees. It looks greener and more fertile, but it still does not feel right. Climate change creates uncertainty even where we should feel safest. The land is not as it should be.

If the land was the answer, has the question also changed?”


Get your tickets today!

Photo from the production featuring someone standing in the foreground with a megaphone. In the background - a dancer runs between hanging fabric.
Photo by Antero Hein.





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