New Mygration exhibition examines intersection of Sámi and American history
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New Mygration exhibition examines intersection of Sámi and American history
Mygration Installation.

SEATTLE, WA.- The National Nordic Museum opened “Mygration.” Featuring the work of Sámi artist Tomas Colbengtson and Swedish artist Stina Folkebrant, the exhibition examines a little-known event in Sámi and American history with ties to Seattle.

In 1894 and 1898, Dr. Sheldon Jackson, the General Agent of Education in Alaska, recommended that the United States Government invite the Sámi, indigenous nomadic reindeer herders, to Alaska for the purpose of teaching reindeer husbandry to Alaska Native Peoples. The herders and reindeer made an arduous transatlantic and transcontinental trip to Seattle, where they were in residence at Woodland Park in March 1898, before making their way to Alaska.

Upon the expiration of their contract in 1900, some participants remained, while others returned to Sápmi, a cultural region spanning parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia’s Kola Peninsula.

Through their work, Colbengtson and Folkebrant explore issues of migration, herd mentality, time, and forgotten past. Colbengtson, who “paints with a photographic form,” selected and printed archival photos of Sámi immigrants, which are paired with Folkebrant’s large-scale paintings of the eight seasons of the mountain world, illustrating the Sámi concept of time and the life of the reindeer. Colbengtson and Folkebrant’s work is being presented as an immersive installation augmented with select historical artifacts and photographs that shed light on this story.

Colbengtson often asks how colonial heritage has altered Indigenous lives and landscapes through his work, which is represented in the collection of Norway’s new National Museum. He is the initiator of one of the first art residencies for Indigenous artists: “Sápmi salasta - Sápmi embraces.”

Later this winter, Folkebrant, a muralist, will visit Seattle to create a new public artwork related to the exhibition’s theme on the façade of a building on the Museum’s grounds.

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