The presence of text in Carola Grahn’s work points to equivalents and powerful connections between reading or listening and viewing. Her poems are both made of and evoke strong images. Can the land itself cry out? Carola Grahn’s poetry gives nature a voice. Her cycle of poems, written from 2013 and forward, take place in a northern landscape. They insist on a dismal or bleak outlook, they embody inner struggles, often relaying hazardous experiences at the edge of existence or stoically facing death. The I in the poems is both, individual and collective. Sometimes it seems to be the voice of nature, other times it is the artist doing the talk, only to shift back to nature again; her a mountain, a stone, a ptarmigan, a birch… There’s a flow of life and death and pain and life, a desperate yet fearless attempt to reconnect to the land.
The phrase Godnatt lille lapp, godmorgon svensk [Good night little Lapp, good morning Swede] is embroidered with blue cotton thread on a woollen blanket, used in the boarding schools to which Sámi children were sent under government policy, between 1900 to the end of 1970s. The embroidered phrase points at the contradiction implicit in the policy implemented during the late 1800s by the Swedish state towards the Sámi, under the expression lapp ska vara lapp [a lapp is to remain a lapp]. The oppressive system of boarding schools separated the Sámi children from their families, alienated them from their mother tongue, while at the same time promoting a curriculum not aimed at an appropriate education, matching the needs for higher education. The boarding school system neither empowered the Sámi in the sense of functioning in Swedish society, nor supported the Sámi culture as is. The segregation policy resulted instead in language loss and the swedification (försvenskning) of the Sámi. The conflicted experiences of the Sámi school child are well summoned in the blanket and the Swedish imagined Sámi motives of the pattern that adorns them.
Carola Grahn (b. 1982) is of South Sámi descent, grew up in Jokkmokk and now lives and works in Malmö. She has a Master of Fine Arts from the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm in 2013 and she has also studied at Beckmans College of Design and Fotoskolan in Gamleby. Her work has recently been exhibited at Röda Sten Konsthall, Göteborg (2020), Onsite Gallery, OCADU, Toronto, Canada (2019), IAIA Museum Of Contemporary Native Arts (MoCNA), Santa Fe, USA (2019), Esker Foundation, Calgary, Canada (2019), Konstmuseet i Norr, Kiruna (2018), Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery, Montreal, Canada (2018), Konsthall C, Stockholm (2018), Carleton University Art Gallery, Ottawa, Canada (2018), Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba, Brandon, Canada (2018), Nordic Matters, Southbank Centre, London, (2017), Kulturrådets årskonferans, Oslo (2017), Art Museum University of Toronto, Canada (2017), Kunsthall Trondheim, (2017), Sámi Dáiddaguovddáš/Sami Center of Contemporary Art, Karasjok, Norge (2017) och Office for Contemporary Art, Oslo (2017).). Carola Grahn has received various grants and her work is represented in the collections of Public Art Agency, Sweden, Konstmuseet i Norr, Ájtte Museum of Sami Culture and the Mountain Region, as well as in Iaspis archive. She has written about Sami art for the journal Afterall and has been the editor of a special issue focusing on Sami culture in Hjärnstorm. Carola, together with Silje Figenschou Thoresen, is the founders of artist group Sámi Girl Gang.