Honorable Mention Tomas Colbengtson Sami

“Sæmie people existed long before the Swedish state was formed and will still exist long after the nation states have disappeared”” 

Tomas Colbengtson is sami, the indigenous nomadic reindeer-people who lives in the northern parts of Scandinavia. He is born in a small sæmie village of Björkvattnet Tärna northern Sweden. In his works he often refers to Sami culture, investigating cultural identity, history and indigenous peoples’ contemporary situation. Tomas explores images, colors and forms based from sami culture and the nordic Scandinavian landscape. He is experimenting with combinations of media and material and has developed a new way to print screen prints in overlay glass often working with screen-print on metal, (aluminium, brass, silver) and working with etching and digital art technique. Colbengtson is exhibiting internationally with public artworks.

Image of Saami child in Sweden from anywhere between 1920 and 1940, a time during which Saami people were forcibly removed from their land and children had to go to Swedish schools, forbidden to speak their language and play the ceremonial drums.

” South Sami was forbidden to speak at school until the 1960s. This meant that the southern Sami language was almost stopped speaking in Tärna. Southern Sami is my native language that I could partly speak when I was a child. Perhaps it is precisely the loss of language that is the real reason why I work with art. Research has shown that loss of one’s mother tongue can cause serious health problems and even lead to suicide among young people. Since the identity is strongly linked to the language, the very foundation of their identity is deprived of language loss. Indigenous peoples have been subjected to language bans everywhere you look around the world and suicides are especially high in these groups. Art can be a language to use when the speech has disappeared and where we can reflect.”

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