Daavi Suvva Festival

In the midsummer of 1993, a unique cultural and music festival took place in Sapmi (Karesuando, Sweden) known as the Davvi Suvva festival. The festival was held in conjunction with the United Nations International Year for the World's Indigenous People. A cultural gathering as well as an affirmation of the progress that has been made toward Saami sovereignty and other indigenous people advancements from over the world, the Davvi Suvva festival affirmed and supported indigenous peoples' past triumphs and continued struggles.

The Davvi Suvva festival celebrated culture and heritage through various artistic performances to include dance, theater, art, and music, incorporating traditional, experimental, and modern expressions. The festival also offered the audience an extensive program of seminars and other activities, all within the context of the world indigenous cultures and with the aim of acknowledging the preservation and perseverance of indigenous people throughout the world.

Music comprised the primary focus of the festival, and performances were from a broad range of genres including ethnic music and world music. The diverse musicians performed songs that narrated the social and cultural history of world indigenous people over the past decades, functioning as a salute to the changing status and increasing rights of the indigenous groups.

Musicians from around the world gathered to participate. The musicians and the music they performed were directly or indirectly focused on the progress in the status and rights of the indigenous peoples. Musical acts included Inuit drummers and dancers as well as other indigenous musicians representing traditional and modern forms. Musical performers included world-renowned Inuk singer Susan Aglukark and Saami yoik singer Mari Boine.

One of the highlights of the Davvi Suvva festival was the traditional Saami song or yoik. The yoik is most closely associated with the northern Saami, expresses those cultural elements, and is the most widely recognized genre of Saami music. The meaning of a yoik or song extends beyond its musical qualities or characteristics because it serves as a broad expression of Saami culture, philosophy, and beliefs. Musicians craft lyrics and music in order to engender a range of emotional responses. Yet, the singer's message in a yoik remains indirect and this results in the listener having to decipher the message. Yoik is a direct connection to the Saami group and these messages can be viewed as an oral history of the past, present, and future.

Even though the festival is officially known as the Davvi Suvva festival, many unofficial names for the gathering have transpired. For instance, some have referred to the Davvi Suvva festival in terms of a spiritual-orientated gathering, such as the "Shaman Summer Festival" or the "Saami Shaman Summer Festival." Others have referred to the festival's northern aspects, calling it a "northern Music and Cultural Festival." Still others have viewed the festival within the context of the indigenous groups, preferring descriptions such as the "Saami Cultural Festival," "International Original Populations Festival," and the "Indigenous Peoples Festival." All of these unofficial names illustrate the diverse views of those who attended the festival.

Although the primary focus was on the world indigenous people and the celebration of their culture, the secondary focus of the Davvi Suvva festival was the Saami people, their culture, and history. The importance of the Saami in the gathering was manifest in the festival's name, which comprised two terms with separate meanings. The term Davvi means

"northern," which is also a reference to the "northern Saami" (e.g., Davvi Saami). The Davvi Saami, formerly called the Lapps, are the largest Saami group with a population of 30,000 and live in Säpmi or the northern regions of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia. Suvvä means "sighing." An English translation equivalent of Davvi Suvvä would be "The North is Sighing."

Artist Ken Hiratsuka, from Tokyo, Japan, was commissioned by the Kemi Museum of Art in Kemi, Finland, to carve six site-specific stones that were placed in various locations in Finland and Sweden to commemorate the festival. One of the sculpted stones, titled Daavi Suuvä, is publicly displayed in Karesuando, Sweden.

Andrew Hund

See also Saami

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