Wednesday, September 5, 2012

"Remapping the Tourist Road"


The new issue (42) of Harvard Review is out and I’m really pleased it includes an essay of mine, “Remapping the Tourist Road.” A few years ago the American-Scandinavian Foundation gave me a travel grant that allowed me to retrace some of the old reindeer migration routes made by the Karesuando Sami over the Swedish mountains to the summer camp of Tromsdalen outside Tromsø, Norway. The Danish artist and ethnographer Emilie Demant Hatt went with them in the spring of 1908, probably one of the only Europeans to have ever made that difficult trek. She writes vividly of the difficulties of snow and ice, of crossing melting snow bridges over rushing rivers, and of carrying babies and puppies and trying to keep them safe.

Hans Ragnar Mathisen, Tromsdalen, Norway
In Tromsø I was able to meet Hans Ragnar Mathisen, a Sami activist and artist well known for his detailed maps of Sápmi in which he puts in all the Sami place names. His important work is part of my essay. I also write about our visit to the now-vanished summer encampment of Tromsdalen and to the Tourist Road, where Nordic and foreign travelers en route up and down the Norwegian coast used to come out to view the reindeer––and the Sami living their daily lives in the turf huts.

Here's Hans Ragnar in his art studio (note reindeer antlers). You can see more of his art and his full-color maps on his website:

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