Introducing my poetic, spiritual, wise and beautiful friend from Norwegian Lapland Monica Olivia. She is a self-taught Sámi artist who makes art of mind-blowing beauty using a palette of vivid hues found in the most northerly regions of the earth. Monica also has a spiritually nourishing and beautiful blog ‘Ask the Mountains‘ where she writes about Sámi culture, motherhood, spirituality, art and nature. In this interview, Monica talks about the beauty of being Sámi and living at the intersection of two cultures, her connection to nature, Buddhism and why living in Norwegian Lapland is a place of endless inspiration for her.
What I love about being Sámi is that I automatically feel at home and connected to the land and nature. We are not separate
As Sámis, our ancestry goes back to Siberia and the Ural mountains. Even though I have never been there myself, I feel a connection to it and even the other indigenous tribes there. That, to me, is a very strong love – to the land and to community.
Most of my paintings are Arctic landscapes and mountains. I hope to capture and transmit the ever-changing mood where I live in Norwegian Lapland
I love colours and creating something out of thin air. Painting is amazing like that
There are no rules, you can use whatever techniques you want and over time eventually you will naturally create your own unique style.
I haven’t actually painted that long, only on and off for about 6 years with no formal art education. Without a doubt I want to make it many, many more years and I hope one day I can go to art school. In the meanwhile, I will continue to paint whenever I feel inspired to do so.
I realised at some point that art is something that goes beyond duality and spoken language
I wanted to be part of that. To express myself, perhaps specifically because I don’t feel I am that good with words and talking due to stammering.
If I was to speak to my younger self, I would tell her: ‘trust your inner voice, and stay weird’
Sounds cheesy, but that’s truly what she needs to hear.
I enjoy being able to use the surroundings, landscape, colours and light to create something new but familiar
It’s also really fun sharing what I make and getting feedback that people can feel my art pieces inside of themselves. That my art speaks to them without a single word. Another thing I love is using other artists’ work as inspiration.
It is only in my 20’s that I have truly embraced my ethnicity as Sámi. I think this is the case for many young Sámis
I have always looked “not Norwegian/Scandinavian”. I have been asked so many times where I am “really from”. Sámis are very scattered today and most (!) Sámis don’t speak or write any of the nine remaining Sámi languages. The culture is lost many places and Sámis have adopted new nationalities and culture (Norwegian, Swedish, Russian, Finnish etc.)
Luckily, any one person can be two or more things at the same time
So I definitely see myself as Sámi AND Norwegian. Sápmi and Norway overlap each other.
Without a doubt Nicholas Roerich really inspires me
He was a master of painting landscapes and mountains, mainly from his travels to Asia. His work has a lot of spiritual symbolism as well. He had incredible skills when it came to colour combinations and composition. Read more about him on this blog post of mine from 2018.
Since then, I have discovered another painter who really sparked inspiration in me, Norwegian painter Vebjørn Sand
His level of dedication and perfection is truly inspiring, it’s easy to see in his works. I saw some of his original paintings at a gallery in Oslo two years back.
The Buddhist path isn’t just about feeling good and calm all the time
“I find it amazing how there are a little over 300 words for snow conditions in the Northern Sámi language
“It just shows how much the natural surroundings matter; the language is built around the ever-changing conditions, especially in relation to herding.“
Here is more information about the Dharma path that I practice, it’s called Pemako Buddhism.
It is about 6 minutes long. It is part of an online festival called Klimakunstfestivalen (The Climate Art Festival). All of us involved with it have little to no experience with movie making, so it will be fun to see the result 😄 I will post it on my blog, otherwise you can follow Klimakunstfestivalen on Facebook.