Karen Anna and her siida


Sami is her everyday language. She has lived her life following the herd, in spring from winter pasture in Kautokeino to summer pasture in Arnøy and Kågen in North Troms. In the autumn the herd moves back to the winter pasture 20 miles east of Kautokeino on the Finnmark mountain plateau.

I am a photographer. Born and raised in Tromsø, a city which, far into last century, bordered on the reindeer pastures of the Sami people, who put up their lavvos just outside town. But we learned little of the Sami and their culture. I saw many pictures of men working with reindeer, but few pictures of women. I knew that reindeer nomadism and the role of women in Sami society were undergoing considerable change, and therefore wanted to preserve on film scenes that were about to disappear.

Karen Anna has watched reindeer husbandry, an industry which had remained virtually unchanged through the generations, suddenly change and leap into the modern world. She therefore wishes to link the present and past, preserving her knowledge, experience and values and communicating them to future generations. For that reason she wanted me to document her everyday life.

Two souls and one wish. This is the background of the photo project presented in this book. And this is how I came to follow Karen Anna and her siida in the years 1986–1993.

An extract from the speech held by Ragnhild Nystad, the vicepresident of Sametinget, Kautokeino, when the book Karen Anna and her Siida was published in 2001.

«The work of the Sami women have always been important in reindeer herding, but their necessary achievements have not always been seen. Grete Andrea Kvaal has with her words and camera contributed in an excellent way to extend the perspective of the Sami culture and the life om reindeer herders.

I especially want to address the value of the exhibition in USA in 1998. It is said in created great interest among our relatives over there. I emphasize the important value of the text in the book written in three languages, the Sami, English and Norwegian. Thank you for your dedicated work in documenting and promoting the Sami culture.»

In addition to the book and public art collections, the project have been realized through several different projects, and shown in multimedia, teaching and exhibitions at home and abroad.

Public art collections                                                                                                                               1988: Troms fylkeskommune  1990: Universitetet i Tromsø, Arktisk senter, Finland  1995: Skjervøy videregående skole  1997: Troms fylkeskommune  2005: Nordnorsk Kunstmuseum 

The exhibit "Karen Anna og hennes Siida"                                                                                           tekster av den samiske forfatteren Rauni Magga Lukkari 1988: Festspillene i Nord-Norge, Nordisk Forum, Oslo, Tromsø Museum, Skjervøy, Arnøya 1989: NRS`s landsmøte i Alta, Tromsø Kulturhus, Kautokeino, Karasjok, Nordreisa 1998: San Francisco og Los Angeles, USA

The exhibit "Arvens Lune Kraft"                                                                                                                  tre fotografer portretterer tre samekvinner 1992: Tromsø Museum, Alta Museum, Sverige

"Elderly in the Arctic" lecture and multimedia                                                                                             om tre samiske kvinner, et samarbeidsprosjekt initiert av den samiske forskeren Gunn Tove Minde 1999: Presentert på Women`s Worlds, og ved flere konferanser.

Multimedia Karen Anna og hennes Siida
Verdens Urbefolkningskonferanse, Tromsø, Minnepolis, USA 1994: Luleå, Sverige, Sametinget, Karasjok 1998: San Francisco og Los Angeles, USA

Photos are published in several books and magazines

«The world is changing constantly, and such pictures will be important for posterity»

From the book published in 2001.

These are the words Karen Anna met me with when I took my first pictures on Arnøy Island in the autumn of 1986.
Her full name is Inga Karen Anna Nilsdatter Logje Gaup. She was born in Goahteluoppal, 25 miles outside Kautokeino, in 1938. At the age of 24 she married Isak Nils Nilsen Gaup. They had four children.
Karen Anna was widowed in 1989. But this by no means meant that she was alone. Karen Anna is fully occupied and is still the central figure of the siida, an extended family community working together to tend their common herd of reindeer.