Dear members of the nominating faculty, dear guests, and dear Hans Ragnar.
My name is Silje Karine Muotka and I am the President of the Sámi Parliament in Norway. It is a great honour for me to be invited to give a Homage to Hans Ragnar Mathisen, also known under his artist name Keviselie or in Sámi Elle Hánsa.
Quite many of the sámis do have a relationship to Hans Ragnar. He is well known because of the marvellous artistic work he has done by mapping and making Sámi maps. In his collection he has produced 21 maps with thousands of Sámi placenames.
The way he combines maps with visual elements of Sámi culture expressed in art, has been truly ground-breaking. The most famous map is the first one, called Sábmi from 1975.
A map of with borderless Sábmi with 920 placenames in Sámi language. The placenames in his first map were collected from all over the Sámi area. Many of them were describing the topography different areas.
As an example, we could see the ending of a word being "johka"- a river - on the map all the way from the Kola Peninsula to mid Sweden and mid Norway. A belt of documentation of the presence of the Sámi nation living across state borders and using our own language describing our lands. Hans Ragnar identified OUR land and OUR Sámi names, in contradistinction to existing national or colonial maps.
This map became an instant classic and was widespread in the Sámi society, and still today 46 years later we find it hanging on walls in Sámi homes. It helped us, The Sámis see that we were indeed a nation spread throughout 4 countries and it reminded us about each other. All over this iconic and still relevant map there are visual elements from duodji, Sámi handicraft, we see our own fauna and small montages of Sámi history. It a beautiful piece of art! It is beautiful also for the non-Sámis who will see the use of colours, skilful artwork and will acknowledge the thorough documentation of the Sámi geographical space. But it speaks especially to a Sámi soul, who will recognize the eternal depths of its beauty. Our placenames, in our language, our own visual universe, our seascapes and landscapes. How could we not like it?
I was lucky enough to grow up after this map was published and I am one of many Sámi who has drawn strength and knowledge of this map. Being indigenous and minority is not always easy. Our people are living in small communities spread over big areas. On days when the struggle for language and protection of the land seems to be a losing battle, this map hanging on the wall has been empowering and encouraging, reminding me that I am not alone in this battle, and I know in my heart that many others have drawn strength from this map, so I want to thank you for this invaluable contribution to our culture.
Fortunately, you did not stop your work with knowledge or with art with the map of Sápmi. Many other art maps have followed, the first other from Divttasvuotna/Tysfjord. Each of the maps show deep respect and knowledge of the area, created with your unique mix of art and knowledge. Your work as an artist has been an enrichment to the Sámi society, and we were happy to see your most important artwork last year in 2021 with the big retrospect exhibition of your art: ČSV- Terra Cognita here in Tromsø at Tromsø kunstforening. You have donated your art to Árran – Julev Sámi Centre in Divttasvuotna, which means that your art will be in a Sámi institution, and available for the public.
You are a citizen of Tromsø municipality. You have been here since early childhood. Under difficult circumstances regarding your health situation, you had to spend most of your childhood here. You lived together with your foster parents in Sálašvággi/ Tromsdalen.
You became early an urban Sámi and you have been very visible in this city. You have been and are still an active member- representing and participating in discussions regarding Sámi topics. Your clear voice and fearless opinions about the past, present, and future Sápmi will be listened to.
Your work has been appreciated, and you are Honorary Member of Romssa Sámi Searvi, the local association that is founded by you. You are also Honorary Member of Norgga Sámiid Riikkasearvi, the national Sámi organisation that I represent at the Sámi parliament.
Still, your work and your interests expand far from just this local area, or even “only” Sápmi. Early in the 1970s, before indigenous people became a recognized group, you were an active participant in the indigenous movement. Proof of this can be seen in the map of Sápmi from 1975, which also includes an overview of the arctic circumpolar areas, naming the indigenous people all over the arctic. You were also present when the World Council of Indigenous Peoples was founded in Port Alberni in Canada in 1975, the first worldwide indigenous organisation, and you have kept the connections to the indigenous world through your work, among others with the big work of arranging the Nana festival, which was an important international festival here in Tromsø. In the internal discussion in Sámi society, in which you have been an active part of since the beginning, you have always been quick to remind us about the importance of solidarity.
Your appointment to an honorary doctor is also an acknowledgement of your deep and wide knowledge of Sámi history and culture. And more importantly you have used your knowledge in the discussions about Sámi rights, about indigenous issues, about justice, fairness and solidarity in a way that has been constructive for our society.
What an exciting and unexpected year it has been for you, Hans Ragnar!
It is less than a year ago when you received the prestigious John Savio Art Award.
Yesterday I had the honour to take part when you received The Royal Norwegian Order of Merit, St Olav.
And today - UIT The Arctic University of Norway will award you with a honorary doctoral degree, called doctor honnoris causa.
On behalf of the Sámi parliament, I will congratulate you with this well-earned honour, finally it is your turn to be recognised for outstanding achievements with your artwork.
We are proud of you and grateful for your outstanding work – our culture is visible. Ollu giitu.