A forgotten culture: Norwegian tales in Jaipur

Photo: Sunil Thakkar for JaipurPhoto.

In his exhibition “Slash & Burn”, Norwegian artist Terje Abusdal tells the story of a Norwegian-Finnish forgotten culture. He brought his artwork to the international festival JaipurPhoto last week.

Terje Abusdal is a Norwegian artist based in Oslo, and was one of this year’s artists on JaipurPhoto, an international, open-air photography festival that is held in different heritage locations around in Jaipur.

Abusdal’s exhibition at the festival, “Slash & Burn”, tells the story of the forgotten culture of the Forest Finns of Norway. Originally, the Forest Finns were farmers who emigrated from Finland four hundred years ago, and settled in the Norwegian-Swedish border areas. Although some people still identify as Forest Finns and they are recognized as a Norwegian national minority, their original culture is long gone. Abusdal was curious on how it feels to be a Forest Finn today, and how identifying with a culture that no more exists provokes questions around one’s self. This was also challenging to his project: “How was I going to tell the story of something that really doesn’t exist anymore?”

The Forest Finns’ historical practice of slash and burn has given the name to Abusdal’s exhibition. “The Forest Finns were identified by their farming techniques — slash and burn. So I used fire and smoke as recurring elements. And the burning of the images is to sort of put the Forest Finns physically into the image,” Abusdal explained.

The project was exhibited from February 23 to March 4 in Hawa Mahal – one of Jaipur’s most famous tourist attractions. The palace has around 6000 visitors daily in the tourist season. From these numbers, an estimated number of 60 000 people may have seen Abusdal’s exhibition.

In addition to the exhibition, Abusdal had a public “in conversation” talk with Kolkata-based Indian Writer Aveek Sen. The talk, which was held February 23, attracted many people and gave rise to a series of interactions with the public. Read more about Terje Abusdal’s artwork here.