Being an indigenous Sami in Sweden – Exhibition at the Nordic museum in Stockholm

Sapmi, an exhibition about the indigenous Sami population in Sweden – was opened in November 2007 and will continue until further notice. It is an exhibition about identity, history and the future. It also covers Sami rights and wrongdoings, cultural encounters, cultural clashes, as well as the image Sami’s have of themselves and of others.


After winning a pitch for concept ideas, Codesign was commissioned to come up with the idea for a permanent exhibition on “Two sides of the same coin”. “No matter what the question is, the Sami people are somehow conflicted by their environment – there are always two completely different approaches to the situation. The UN’s convention on indigenous people is the only convention that Sweden has not ratified. The reason for this is that if Sweden were to do so, the Sami people would have the right to much of the land in northern Sweden, including all the natural resources found there,” says Peter Ullstad, Architect and founder of Codesign. The Swedish Government and the Sami people are still not quite in agreement and there is still a sense of guilty and a desire to somehow resolve the situation. Yet, at the same time, half of all Samis do not live in a Sami community, nor do they vote in the Sami Parliament.


The exhibition is based on seven themes that revolve around the idea of ​​”Two sides of the same coin”: Whose tracks? Who is what? Whose things? Whose eyes? Whose voice? Whose rights? Whose land? “The exhibition is in a long narrow room. There is a large cube in the middle that you can go into. The cube was built to create a space for the Swedish trauma surrounding the racial biology examinations that occurred in the Sami community. The original idea was to have a photo on one side, and a film on the other side. The photo was of a naked woman being examined. The movie on the other hand showed her with her grandson telling him how she felt back then compared to how she feels now. Two weeks before the inauguration this was pulled as it was considered shameful by some members of the Sami community. However, the shame should lie with the perpetrators not the victims,” concludes Ullstad. Footnote: Today, the cube has a family photo of a Sami family photographed by the Swedish Institute of Race Biology in Uppsala (1920-1958)

team: Peter Ullstad, Staffan Virke

Project team

Peter Ullstad
Architect and Founder
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Staffan Virke
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