Marja Helander

Born: 1965
Nationality: Finnish
Based in: Finland
Media: Multimedia / Video, Photography
Content: Spiritual, Post-Colonial


My work is based on my Sámi roots. Sámi people are the indigenous people of Scandinavia. Traditionally they have lived by reindeer-breeding, hounting and fishing in the northern parts of Scandinavia and Russia. In my works I have studied the conflict between the traditional Sámi way of living and the modern society. In my earlier works, I also investigated my own identity between the Finnish and the Sámi culture, the contradiction between urbanity and an indigenous identity. My father is a Sámi, but as I was brought up in the South of Finland, far away from the Sámi culture and tradition.

Recently I´ve been concentrating on post-colonial topics among Sámi area: for example how international mining industry is invading into Sámi land. As an artist I primaly work with photography and video art. In my photographs and videos the lead role is played by the Northern landscape and its´ special living conditions. Factory and mine milieus leave permanent traces in nature. They stay even after man disappears. My pictures of Kiruna, for example, describe a Sámi landscape where a whole fell has turned into refuse after years of mining industry. At the end, what is going to happen with those industrial landscapes stained by pollution? How do we people fit into this new polluted environment?

In recent years I also started making video works, concerning these Sami issues. They are tragicomic and with them I want to show the comical side of my ideas and working.

About series Modern Nomads, years 2001-2003

The photos in the Modern Nomads tell about a modern person, who is totally lost in her traditional Sámi environment. She doesn´t understand her position. She walks on the mountains following the footsteps of her ancestors, reindeer-herdsmen. The movement continues, but the frame of reference is different.

About series Silence – jaskes eatnamat, year 2014

My newest photographs are taken in North of Scandinavia, and in Kola Peninsula in Russia. It is actually the area which is considered to be Sámi area today. I´ve been interested in the contradiction between the nature and the industrial areas there: especially the mining areas and the artificial ”mountains”, and also the refinery factory buildings.

Video work Trambo, year 2014

Trambo is a self-portrait of me, an indigenous Sámi person wandering on a mountain. I am
dragging a big trampoline, a burden I hope will bring a bit of joy to the monotonous journey and life. The trampoline is a reference to the modern age, but can also be seen as a prison or a wall that is hard to see through.

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From the series Darkness: Kiruna, Snow

From the series Darkness: Kiruna, Night

From the series Silence: Monchegorsk

From the series Silence: Monchegorsk

From the series Silence: Murmansk

From the series Silence: Zapolyarny

An installation view from the exhibition Silence - jaskes eatnamat in Gallery Forum Box, Helsinki 2014. On the back wall there is video work Trambo

From the series Silence: Nickel