Anders Sunna 1985 Sweden
Is this thought-provoking work outside the walls of Örebro castle an expression of the Sami experience? Every time Anders Sunna makes an artistic statement, he tells the story with such verve and insurgence that his art becomes political.
In 2017, a group of Sami artists exhibited at Documenta in the German town of Kassel. Since then, the art of the Sápmi group of which Sunna is a member has been exhibited in Sweden on many occasions.
Anders Sunna grew up in Kieksiäisvaara in the far north of Sweden. In the mid-80s, his family was forced under police supervision to move their reindeer herd from the family’s original area and their branding of reindeer was prohibited. One can imagine that the longstanding conflict (dating back to 1971 and still unresolved) between his family and the local county authority for overseeing reindeer herding etched itself into his young mind. It is a trauma running like an open wound through the family history.
This became the anchor and source of inspiration for the art Sunna later created. A catapult and a traditional tent called a lávvun tell us that a siege is taking place of one of the old seats of power in the city. Back in Magnus Eriksson’s time, this was a fortress where the aristocrats withdrew to protect themselves from the wrath of the people.
Sunna has become famous for his wall paintings with thick layers of paint, graffiti, collages and newspaper cuttings all woven together into a strong image. However, in this case, he has produced a sculptural installation.
On a deeper level, the work expresses the repression of the Sami people, the evictions from their homeland, the inroads of large-scale industrialization and racial discrimination in various forms throughout history. This tale of woe includes a systematic pseudo-scientific biometric categorization of the Sami people, marginalization from Swedish cultural history and negative archetypes of the Sami portrayed in the arts.
Anders Sunna’s art is both private and overarching in its criticism of the Sami situation. His art is a form of political activism to highlight the plight of his family but at the same time the fight is something we can all identify with. His works portray a whole population’s experience of repression.
Outside the medieval castle, his sculptural installation begs the question: If the Sami had gone to the attack or defended themselves back when this was a stronghold of power, how would our world look today?