• Black Box teater
  • Oslo Internasjonale Teaterfestival
  • 12–16 March 2024
  • OITF’24 / Day #3

Colonialism in the North – Dispelling Myths of Nordic Exceptionalism
By Grace Tabea Tenga

Last year’s edition of the festival, Ušllu Álbmotgaskasaš Teáhterriemut 2023 (baptized to the North Sami version for Oslo Internasjonale Teaterfestival 2023), was entirely committed to the Indigenous people of the Nordic, the Sami. The festival held up the artistic practices grounded in indigenous ways of knowing and living that have been passed intergenerationally, and often in spite of assimilation processes by the Norwegian society. The plight of the Sami is usually not in the public eye of the majority, but caught a lot of attention at the time due to the Fosen case. It began as a reindeer herding ground in Fosen until the government permitted the building of windmill parks there in 2010. Eleven years later, the Supreme Court ruled the windmill park a violation of indigenous rights, as the park disrupts reindeer herding grounds. Yet, the Norwegian government has failed to dismantle the windmill park for almost three years, reaching a settlement in March of this year in paying its way out of the matter. This case reignited the Sami cause in Norway and also highlighted the many ways Sami persecution still operates. Thus, this year, the festival opened with the film La elva leve! from 1980 (Let the River Flow) about the Sami fight against making a dam of the Alta river in the 1970s. The festival was honored to have the director, Bredo Greve, there in carne, to share his thoughts about the plight of the Sami, connecting the dots between historical oppression and current matters. 

– In many ways, the native apocalypse has already occurred [through colonization]. Indigenous futurism opens a space for dealing allegorically with the loss of nature, said poet and novelist Sigbjørn Skåden. He held a lecture titled “Indigenous  Futurism and Artistic Experimentation” Thursday at noon. If you missed this lecture, there is a chance to attend the multiple conversations and talks curated by the Davvi – Centre for Performing Arts, who will take over the house the whole of Saturday. 

       Scattered Islands of the North Sea
The monologue Castle of Joy by the Feroschie Compagnie from the Faroe Islands expresses the complex relations of living under the thumb of Danish rule. The one-woman piece by Kristina Sörensen Ougaard embodies the multiple characters as well as the main character of sole soul Pól Jóhannus “Joy” Poulsen. Cast off because of his mental challenges, he is taken from his native island and placed in a mental health facility in Denmark. There, the patients are mistreated in institutions intended to care for them, a sad parallel to Norwegian boarding schools sought to assimilate Sami students. 

       Death to Exceptionalism, Yes to Complexity
The Sami narrative and Faroe Island stories disrupt the perception of Norway as a progressive, human rights-oriented democracy. This is the Nordic Exceptionalism Scandinavian countries are labelled as, being egalitarian nations with no strings attached to historical colonial pursuits, such as the United States, England or France. As Sami activists and politicians poke a hole in this myth, the resistance faced can be dire, with hateful remarks, discrimination and non-platforming. Embodying the complex realities instead of clapping ourselves on the shoulders in self gratification is the responsible approach to a full reconciliation process.


Black Box teater has invited dancer and art critic Grace Tabea Tenga to write a series of daily reflections on the festival