By Professor Dirk Gindt.

It concentrates of the intersectional and decolonial labour performed by three Indigenous ensembles – Giron Sámi Teáhter in Kiruna/Giron (Sweden), Nunatta Isiginnaartitsisarfia/The National Theatre of Greenland in Nuuk, and Qaggiavuut in Iqaluit, Nunavut (Canada). The project has two core aims. First, I plan to study processes of production and reception of selected historical and contemporary plays and performances by these Sami, Greenlandic and Inuit ensembles and analyse their artistic form and political content as well as their critical reception in order to demonstrate how performing artists in the Circumpolar North deal with the manifold legacies of colonialism. These include, but are not limited to: decolonization, reconciliation, healing, preservation of culture and traditions, preservation and promotion of languages, resistance to a colonizing gaze, global climate changes and the exploitation of natural resources, the need for positive and empowering self-representation, and the attempts to work through trauma and shame caused by anthropometric observations, forced assimilation, forced displacement and residential or nomadic schools. Additionally, these three ensembles also face a number of financial and administrative obstacles, hence why I will pay attention to organizational aspects such as the means to secure public funding, access to a permanent playhouse or performance space as well as outreach efforts to other circumpolar communities.

The selected ensembles and countries serve as representative (rather than as exhaustive) examples to expose key artistic and political concerns for performing artists in the Circumpolar North. My choice of Sweden, Greenland and Canada as areas of focus is far from arbitrary and allows for three unique, rich and complimentary case studies to tease out similarities, overlaps, variations and contrasts. All three ensembles have different histories and face different challenges and thus require contextually and culturally sensitive analysis. Yet they also share important commonalities that unite them in their decolonial struggle. Rather than conceptualizing these rich performance cultures as nationally isolated or structured along geopolitical borders, I analyse them as unfolding along transnational and intercultural processes and exchanges that circulate across the Arctic. As a result, my second aim is to theorize and argue for the concept of ‘circumpolar performance processes’ as an innovative methodological framework and analytical tool to situate these contemporary performance cultures in a transnational context and argue for an intercultural understanding of Arctic performances that respects the historical context and is culturally sensitive, but defies the confines of national boundaries. The project is theoretically informed by decolonial performance theories and the methodology builds on ethically responsible principles, including informed and voluntary consent by all participants, and actively supports Indigenous peoples’ right for cultural self-determination.

The first part of the project focuses on theatre and performance in the Swedish part of Sápmi and devotes particular attention to Giron Sámi Teáhter which is located in the northern city Kiruna/Giron. I analyze the history of modern Sami performing arts since 1971 when the independent ensemble Dálvadis started protesting the exploitation of land and natural resources in Sápmi, all the way to the contemporary efforts of Giron Sámi Teáhter to become officially recognized as Sweden’s national stage for Indigenous performing arts. I argue that studying and understanding the decolonial labour of Sami cultural performers necessitates an intersectional approach that respects issues on colonialism, gender and feminism, sexuality and queer studies, critical race studies and critical whiteness studies as well as a children’s and youth perspective. The method is based on archival studies of historical productions, performance analyses and interviews with Sami performing artists and knowledge holders (managing and artistic directors, actors, playwrights, directors, scenographers and costume designers). To ensure ethical responsibility, I follow regulations that have been developed by decolonial and Arctic researchers in the humanities and social sciences in consultation and collaboration with Indigenous peoples as well as ethical protocols and guidelines that have been proposed by the Sami Council, the Sami Parliament and the Swedish Sami National Association.