On The Territory
Creating a link between Sápmi and Nunavut, Sámi choreographer Elle Sofe Sara and Inuk artist Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory offer a vision of land-based ecology. As mothers and activists who are deeply engaged in their communities, they have both developed multidisciplinary artistic practices aligned with their lifestyles, which centre on collaboration and the bonds with their ancestors, families, and nature.
This activity is part of the Decolonial Ecology Day
Moderator Rafico Ruiz
With the support of The Embassy of Norway
In association with Centre Canadien d’Architecture
About the artists
Elle Sofe Sara (Guovdageaidnu)
Elle Sofe Sara explores various aspects of physicality and Sámi customs that have escaped colonial erasure. This Indigenous people, to which she belongs, inhabits a transnational region called Sápmi that extends across central Norway and Sweden, northern Finland, and Russia’s Kola peninsula.
Operating at the intersection of the performing arts, film, and video, choreographer and director Elle Sofe Sara explores various aspects of physicality and Sámi customs that have escaped colonial erasure. This Indigenous people, to which she belongs, inhabits a transnational region called Sápmi that extends across central Norway and Sweden, northern Finland, and Russia’s Kola peninsula. The choreographer lives there herself, at Guovdageaidnu in Norway, where she grew up in a family of reindeer herders. She also co-founded the Sámi artistic collective Dáiddadállu there. Each year, Sara takes part in the seasonal migration of reindeer and the marking of newborns in fall with her children.
Having completed a master’s degree in choreography at the Oslo National Academy of the Arts (KHIO), Sara also studied dance at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire in London. Her works have received numerous awards. Among others, her short film Ribadit (2019) won the Moon Jury Award at the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival in Toronto.
For her work Vástádus eana, which was created in 2021 and will open FTA 2023, Sara worked with the Sámi composer, musician, and joiker Frode Fjellheim, who wrote some of the show’s joiks. A professor of music at Nord University, he made a name for himself with his band Transjoik. Vástádus eana received the 2020-2022 Critics Award in Norway, where Sara is considered one of her generation’s most influential dance artists. The show has been presented at some of Europe’s most prestigious theatres and festivals. Montreal is its first stop on Turtle Island.
Sara’s current and future projects include creating a piece for the Norwegian dance company Carte Blanche (in 2023) and directing the first-ever feature-length musical in a Sámi language (in 2025). Entitled Árru, this film rooted in the joik vocal tradition addresses the socio-ecological impact of a copper mine near Guovdageaidnu.
Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory (Iqaluit)
Williamson Bathory’s creations in various fields have received numerous awards. As an activist, she also pursues the affirmation and recognition of Inuit arts.
Of Greenlandic descent, Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory was born in Saskatoon. She has lived in Iqaluit since 2005. The need to uphold the founding stories of her culture against the ravages of colonialism is intrinsic to her artistic practice, which she has continuously diversified and transformed for over thirty years. A founding member and artistic director of Qaggiavuut until 2021, an organization that promotes the conservation, development, and transmission of Inuit arts, Williamson Bathory is also a curator, sculptural artist, actress, stage director, and poet. In the installation Nannuppugut! (2021), which earned her the prestigious Sobey Art Award, she exhibited the skin of a polar bear that she killed while defending her family and honoured its spirit by projecting a video onto it, in which she performs a drum dance, engaging directly with the materiality and spirituality of the flesh, whether human or animal. A central element in her work is dialogue, especially with elders, whose stories she treats with love and reverence in Kiviuq Returns (2017-2019).
Her mother Karla Jessen Williamson, a strong advocate of uaajeerneq, the Greenland mask dance, passed this art on to her along with its political significance. It would become a key element of her practice. Deploying the disruptive triad of fear, sexuality, and humour, uaajeerneq encourages exploration of the self and of humanity among both the spectators and the dancer. Williamson Bathory’s creations in various fields have received numerous awards. As an activist, she also pursues the affirmation and recognition of Inuit arts.
Scholar, educator, and curator, Rafico Ruiz joined the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) in 2019 as Associate Director of Research
Ruiz’s work explores settler colonialism and infrastructure in the circumpolar world, as well as contemporary environmental issues related to the phase states of ice.
Ruiz has designed and led a number of research fellowship programs at the CCA, including the Mellon-funded The Digital Now: Architecture and Intersectionality (2020-2022), the three year In the Postcolony series that was part of the CCA’s Master’s students program (2020-2022), as well as creating the Indigenous-led Design Research Fellowship Program (2022-2024) and the CCA-WRI Research Fellowship Program (2022-2024).
He also co-curated ᐊᖏᕐᕋᒧᑦ / Ruovttu Guvlui / Towards Home (2022), the CCA’s first Indigenous-led exhibition and publication project that sought to centre a land-based architecture by and for Inuit and Sámi communities. Ruiz is also the author of Slow Disturbance: Infrastructural Mediation on the Settler Colonial Resource Frontier (Duke University Press, 2021), and the co-editor of Saturation: An Elemental Politics (Duke University Press, 2021).