My small collection.
On my return from Jokkmokk in 2017 I produced this image as part of my trip report. Since that time it has provoked a number of enquiries so I thought I would put up an article here to address some of those questions.
First of all, I would
define a couple of terms I will use. The Sami people, also known as Sámi or Saami ( Archaically referred to in English as Lapps or Laplanders ) are the indigenous Finno-Ugric people inhabiting the Arctic area of Sápmi, which today encompasses parts of far northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the Kola Peninsula of Russia. In this article and elsewhere on my web sites I will prefer the term Saami as it is more distinctive to web search engines.
Duodji is a general term for the
traditional handicraft of the Saami. To be correctly described as duodji an item should not be just a tourist souvenir but a functional item used in the traditional life of the Saami which involved nomadic reindeer herding.
Furthermore, the materials used in duodji also tend to reflect that traditional lifestyle as well. For my own collection, both the form and the function are of great importance. These are not just artefacts that will reside in a showcase, they will also find use in
my own outdoor life.
Now that all that has been set out properly let me tell you about my small collection.
I had admired duodji for many years without knowing much about it. In fact the first item that I acquired I did not even realise had been made by the Saami.
The pipe pouch hanging at the back centre of the picture caught my eye many years ago at a car boot sale in England. I didn't know what it was for but it had obviously been well made in a manner that was more
than just functional. Someone made it to look good as well as just contain something. I had never seen it's like before and it was many years later that I saw a similar pouch on display at Ajtte, the Saami museum in Jokkmokk.
The first item of duodji that I set out to purchase was my antler knife, front left in the picture. Deb's and I were working for part of the Summer of 2005 at Lofotr, the Viking museum at Borg on the Lofoten Islands in the North of Norway.
To get there we drove the length of Norway in my old van, taking in as many museums and sights as we could see on the way. We also took every opportunity to visit handicraft traders on the route and although we saw many beautiful knives on the journey, I could not find one that pleased my hand as much as my eye.
We took a slight detour to visit the Saami museum at Karasjok and without hoping for much we also visited the Stromeng Knivsmed where they made the utilitarian
knives that we had seen many times on our route.
The knife factory was interesting but a small cabinet with a few antler knives in it caught my eye. These were different from their normal stock in trade and when I enquired about them I was told that they were the sort of thing they made when they got fed up of mass producing the other kind. I suspect that may have just been a line for the tourists but it was clear these were a cut above the usual
blades they were selling. I asked if they had any more and they opened a drawer with two more like this. I chose the one that fitted my hand best. It's egg shaped handle profile meant that I could tell immediately, without looking, which side the edge lay on, which is important if you use a knife in the dark.