September 7, 2020 - Henie Onstad Kunstsenter - Nils-Aslak Valkeapää / Áillohaš
September 7, 2020

Henie Onstad Kunstsenter

Nils-Aslak Valkeapää, No title, 1991. The muncipality of Kautokeino Collection.

Nils-Aslak Valkeapää, No title, 1995. Photo: Øystein Thorvaldsen / Lásságámmi vuođđudus / The Lásságámmi Foundation.

Nils-Aslak Valkeapää. Photo: Rolf Chr. Ulrichsen, Aftenposten, NTB Scanpix.

Nils-Aslak Valkeapää / Áillohaš
October 23, 2020–January 10, 2021

Sara Marielle Gaup Beaska: October 22, 2020.
Commissioned work: Niko Valkeapää: November 8, 2020.
Mari Boine Trio: November 28, 2020.

Henie Onstad Kunstsenter
Sonja Henies vei 31
1311 Høvikodden
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Please read the Sámi E-flux here.

Nils-Aslak Valkeapää / Áillohaš (1943-2001) is seen as a cultural icon and nation builder in Sápmi*.  His work is of great relevance today, both within the field of art and as an advocate for the rights of Indigenous peoples. This fall the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter in Norway wishes to present the interdisciplinary works of Áillohaš and highlights his importance in the Nordic countries as well as in a larger global perspective.

Throughout Áillohaš’ oeuvre one can always find a deep respect for nature, ecology, animals and humans. Áillohaš was born into a family of reindeer husbandry, with herds that migrated to Finland for their winter grazing and stayed on the Norwegian side of Sápmi in the summer.  As Áillohaš did not have it in him to kill animals, he studied to become a teacher in order to connect with literature, visual art and music.

After graduating in 1966 Áillohaš dedicated himself to forefront Sámi traditions and rights. He was central in the establishing of publishers, unions and festivals with the aim to strengthen Sámi culture as he fought for the rights of Indigenous people on a global scale. In addition he left behind a remarkable artistic legacy of his interdisciplinary art work. Áillohaš was an innovator within the Sámi tradition of music, literature and visual art, and a Nordic pioneer in the fields of artists books, sound art and poetry.

Áillohaš was part of the Sámi delegation when the World Council of Indigenous Peoples was established in Port Alberni in Canada in 1975. In October the very same year, Áillohaš wrote about his impressions, later published in the book Lávllo vizar biellocizáš, (Bluethroat, Twitter, Sing) in 1976: Without words / the heart feels connected  / beams of joy / lights up the mind / See a sister / a brother has been found / What joy / What joy / Finally

Through his role as a cultural coordinator for WCIP, Áillohaš became central in the organizing of one of the first international festivals of Indigenous culture. Davvi Šuvva (The Roar from the North) in the summer of 1979. Here there was music, dance and theatre performed on stage by Sámis, Inuits from Greenland, Cree from Saskatchewan, Komis from Soviet, exiled Peruvians and Bolivians, as well as especially invited Kurds and Palestinians. Davvi Šuvva became an important turning point for many Sámis. The festival contributed, not only to the strengthening of Sámi identity and culture, but also to an expanded experience of community with Indigenous people from all over the world.

At the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter this fall you are greeted by an installation based on Áillohaš’ main work—Beaivi, áhčážan (The Sun, My Father) from 1988. The book Beaivi, áhčážan consists of 566 poems and cultural historical photographs which the artist collected from various archives in Europe, the US and the Nordic countries. Beaivi, áhčážan is a story of the Sámi indigenous people and their history. Told through pictures and poetry, Áillohaš invokes a mythical reality and a shared Sámi landscape.

The exhibition is the most extensive presentation of Áillohaš’ works—until now. Here one can experience the interdisciplinary practice and activism found in Áillohaš’ art. In the poetry, one can hear the joik, in the books, the drawings, photographs and words descend into a higher entity, and in his sonic universe one finds an underlying philosophy of ecology. As he himself expressed it: “In our cultural tradition, everyone is an artist… The way of life is art.”

It is rare to experience, to such an extent, the legacy of Áillohaš in one exhibition. His radical strategy was to not have a gallerist. Nor was he willing to sell his artworks to museums or collections outside of Sápmi. Thus this exhibition consists of a long line of private, as well as public deposits from Sápmi. After the exhibition at the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter the presentation will travel to Nordnorsk Kunstmuseum in Romsa/Tromsø in the north of Norway.

The exhibition is curated by Lars Mørch Finborud and Geir Tore Holm and is a collaboration between the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter and Nordnorsk Kunstmuseum.

In conjunction with the exhibition an elaborately illustrated catalogue is published by the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter and Nordnorsk Kunstmuseum and distributed by Kontur Forlag. The publication includes 11 newly written texts on the life and art of Nils-Aslak Valkeapää / Áillohaš.

For the exhibition there will be arranged a live program with several concerts and performances by Sámi artists. Due to Covid 19 there will be limitations in experiencing these events in real life, but the Henie Onstad will stream live footage online at

* Sápmi refers to the areas where the Sámi people have traditionally lived, and stretches over four countries: Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia.

Henie Onstad Kunstsenter
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