Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Way up in the north: the land of the Sami

a librarian holding a book that is four times the size of her head beside her. She's sitting on a big table with the book open on top of it and looking at the book from the right side.Little had I known that my search for an item to post on Instagram would lead to the discovery of one of my favorite books at Rauner! Contrary to the imposing vibe that the huge size of this book exudes, the pencil-drawn illustrations inside appear much more approachable, similar to something you would see doodled in the notebook of an elementary school student -- though with much greater precision and detail. After some research, I learned that these were illustrations by Johan Turi, the first Sami author to publish secular works in the Sami language. Turi drew these illustrations to include in his 1931 book titled Muittalus Samid Bira, also known as Turi's Book of Lappland to an English-speaking audience.

black and white pencil drawing on a paper. Nine reindeers are lined up from the left bottom corner of the paper to the right top corner of the page. Three reindeers in the back are smaller than the other ones and children are riding them. Eight reindeers are lined up from the top right corner of the page to the left bottom corner of the page, just below the other line of reindeers. Conifer trees are drawn in the bottom of the drawing. Human figures are drawn in front of each reindeer lines. The Sami are the northernmost indigenous group of people in Europe, residing in parts of Norway, Finland, Sweden and Russia. Turi's depiction of the lives of the Sami people in this book provides insights into the cultural and traditional conventions of Sami society.

Reindeer are the dominant feature in all of Turi's drawings as they play a significant role in the livelihoods of the Sami people.
You will notice that, in this drawing, there are two distinct groups traveling in opposite directions, illustrating the migration patterns for two different seasons. The group above are migrating towards the north, a spring migration pattern, whereas the group below are migrating towards the south, which occurs in autumn. Evidence indicating the coexistence of different time frames in this drawing are the horns of the reindeer. The horns of the reindeer in the bottom group are full-grown, which would have been true in autumn, whereas the horns of the reindeer in spring would not have fully matured yet.

A pencil-drawn image of a big circle divided into three parts, like one would cut a pie. Inside each parts are filled with reindeers, interspersed with human figures here and there. There are four animals, presumably dogs, outside the circle in the bottom left corner of the drawing. In autumn, when the reindeer are migrating southward, herds get mixed together frequently. To identify their animals, the owners install a stockade where they gather all the reindeer and begin to separate them. Each stockade has the same number of enclosures as there are owners. Then, the owners would use lassos to catch the reindeer to check to whom it belongs and put that animal in the appropriate pen.

A pencil drawing of a small tent with a line of three reindeer sleighs in front of the entrance of the tent. On the right side in front of the tent are a line of four people looking at the doorway of the tent where a man and an woman are standing and talking to each other. There is a smoke coming out from the top of the tent, presumably from a fire place. Aside from the reindeer herding, Turi introduces other aspects of Sami life such as courting, tent-building, and an annual trip to a church in JukkÀsjarvi, Sweden.

The book we have at Rauner only has illustrations and is without text descriptions. However, Baker-Berry Library has an English-language version of Turi's Book of Lappland, which includes explanations of each drawing.

If you'd like to see our book with only the illustrations, ask at Rauner for Stefansson DL 917.L2 T82. To better understand the illustrations, check out Turi's Book of Lappland from Baker-Berry and bring it over with you.

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