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  • Anastasia Konstantopoulou

“I want to show that different identities can coexist together”

Updated: Sep 23, 2022

Gothenburg Fringe 2022 in review - Biejvvelådde

On the fringes of this month’s Gothenburg Fringe, Anastasia Konstantopoulou from our volunteer media crew spoke to Timimie Märak and Gabriella Rooth from Pandemic Productions, which presented Biejvvelådde at Panjál Scenstudio.

“Biejvvelådde invites the viewer to accompany Timimie Gassko Märak in both thoughts and feelings on the journey towards language. Not finding the words. Not feeling good enough. Not even daring to try. With BIEJVVELÅDDE, Tim wants to take us past the barrier of everything we have to pretend to be to find what we actually want.

“Language is not just speaking. It's music and dancing and video games. And to listen. It's the silence that settles the second you step into a room when no one wants you there. Different languages bring out different parts of us. And we have to talk about it.”

Please introduce yourselves.

Gabriella: My name is Gabriella Rooth and I am a dancer and in general, a stage art performer. My role in Bjevelådde is choreographer and dancer. I am taking part in my opinion in a very important piece that talks about the history in Sweden that is often forgotten and actually left out on purpose. It's a great honour for me as a queer culture worker to have this place in the show and work with other amazing Sámi artists.

Timimie: My name is Timimie Märak and I am a poet…and I am also a Sámi indigenous activist who talks mainly about queer indigenous issues, one of the main organizers of Sápmi Pride on the Swedish side of Sápmi. I have written the piece “Biejvvelådde” which is a 45 minute performance on mainly identity, and identity very much connected to language… Not language as the spoken word language, but also all the aspects of tradition and how we express ourselves since communication is not just words. So when I was asked to create a literature piece, I said that I can not only do it with words, since in Sámi it is not just the spoken word but all the ways we interact, that colonialism has taken and is still taking from us. Gabriella is my red carpet everything and is an amazing choreographer and this is the biggest show we have done together where she has not just done the choreography for her dance but she has also choreographed my movements..mhmm.. So I am a queer Sámi artist, working with indigenous issues and the spoken word poetry. We also work together with Regina Steen Bergman who made all the amazing visuals and Axel Olle Sigurd Andersson, who is our composer and musician.

Biejvvelådde at Panjál Scenstudio | Credit Uros Hocevar / kolektiff for Gothenburg Fringe Festival

So how would you describe your performance?

Gabriella: It's a lot about seeing how different forms of communication make up identity, and how different forms of art come together. Because our movement on the stage is connected to the music, but it is also connected to the visuals, and to the message. So it's very moulded together, different art forms, it is an interdisciplinary art performance I would say.

Timimie: In 2019, I was asked to create a literal piece for Markomeannu, which is a Sámi festival north of Norway, and wanted to be about Sámi or in Sámi, especially since I am a reclaimer of the Sámi language, growing up with Swami (Swedish Sámi), having a grandfather that was beaten until they spoke Swedish, having a mother who is part of a generation that either spoke Sámi in secrecy or was not taught Sámi at all (because her parents wanted to protect her) ... and today there are only 650 people that speak in my mother tongue, which is called Juvelsámi.

Since I am also queer, I have also seen a lot of Sámi people having to turn away from their culture and communities, because of their queerness… So when I was asked to create this piece, I wanted to talk about how the lack of community and connection also leads to the lack of self-knowledge, both as a private person but also as an indigenous person, losing the connection to people who know your language, know your handcraft, know your traditions in general. And as a Sámi, as a queer, and as an artist I find it natural to know that communication is not just talking, it’s the body language, the ways we speak, it’s always about context. So through this piece I want to talk about what is it like for me as a grown-up person to feel like a baby again, feeling this clumsiness when you try to reclaim your language (...) feeling unworthy in your culture, and knowing that this is connected to colonial shame, which is also connected with homophobia, neurodivergency etc So an interdisciplinary art piece for me is something natural both because every audience does not have the same experience with all art forms, so dance music and visuals are together because people process information in different ways. Some people might admire the music, others the poetry or the dance…whatever they admire, it is good enough. The second thing I want to show is that different identities can coexist together…Everybody in this ensemble is queer and/ or Sámi or have this minority perspective. So some people will relate to my Sáminess or to Gabriella’s super femme queerness or to the super cool music and visuals. Identity is not just one thing at a time, and it is always due to context.

How do dance, visuals, music, and word poetry come together to describe Sámi identity and language?

Gabriella: I would say that they are basically an extension of the message, and they are all emphasising each other. It is good to have these different types of communication because a lot of people have not had the privilege of experiencing performing arts. So they all act as communication devices of the same message.

Timimie: And since we are going to be dropping this bomb of: “It’s OK to be gay and Sámi and colonialism is real”, especially in younger audiences where there are a lot of issues with their focus and attention span, I think that is easier when you have different artforms with the same message and expressions, so people can hopefully forget that they are forced into a role of socializing, especially when we are performing in schools, and just having these impressions and let it land. Younger people need to have a different presentation. And again, context comes again - it is very different when there is a POC context or a very white context.

I wanted to ask you also about if there's any overarching message or feeling that you would like to communicate through your performance, do you have some specific goal?

Timimie: I think that during the performance I would I really hope that the feeling we can create is - even if there are very harsh questions, like the subject can be very overwhelming - I hope that the room in itself can be welcoming and warm, that the feeling can be that they are not uncomfortable, especially the teachers. That you can be uncomfortable and that you're still allowed to be in the room. I want them to feel that it's a generous place to be and that it's okay because there are no stupid questions it's just bad timing or a bad message in itself. I would say that it's whomever you are and whatever you want to be, that it's okay as long as it's not at someone else's expense. I would not want to say that I want to leave people with a feeling I do not want to force a feeling on to someone, I want you to be a part of the feelings that we are going through, but I don't want to say that I want to lead them with a feeling or force the feeling upon them that is never my goal.

Gabriella: I agree, I agree that I would like a feeling of welcoming and perhaps a sense of community. If I could say a message that may be connected to a feeling I would like them to see and feel that there are possibilities in existing with a lot of different identities.

Biejvvelådde at Panjál Scenstudio | Credit Uros Hocevar / kolektiff for Gothenburg Fringe Festival

That also goes well with my next question about the audience and their reactions but you said that you don't exactly expect them or want them to feel something specific…

Timimie: I think I usually have more presumptions about the teachers when we are going to perform in a school. I don't think I expect something from place to place but we have from the start to talk about a routine for if we have to pause or quit during the performance what do we do if something happens? So, we have been performing at a school where they had painted swastikas all over the walls and in a backstage area. When that's the first thing you face before you have met the audience then of course you have some expectations but again more of the teachers than the children. So I just started and ended the performance by saying that I have a pen with me and I have been writing better messages and crossed out all of the bad things and if I would be sued for vandalism then I will gladly take that responsibility. But if there is anyone in the audience who wants to have the pen, that's also fine and I hope that that will be the whitest of you who takes it upon themselves to do that, so the queer and Indigenous and POC kids won't have to be the ones defending themselves again.

Gabriella:…So we basically painted butterflies over the swastikas *laughs*

Timimie: Yeah so in that case I expect more reactions from the teachers than the children.

Last year you won the Grand Prix at Stockholm Fringe Festival. What is it like to perform at Fringe, what brought you back to the Fringe scene and Gothenburg this year?

Timimie: We have been on tour twice in Sápmi, commonly known as Northern Norway, We have also performed at Fringe Festival twice, which was amazing because it was the first time that we performed outside of Sápmi and in Sweden.

Gabriella: For me, the experience of the Fringe Festival was very special because our close family and our chosen family and friends were able to come and see us. I like that we have done this show on this big, fantastic stage for Markomeannu Festival, The Sami festival, I like that we have taken Biejvvelådde to schools, I also like the opportunity we have now to present it to our friends in bigger cities through Fringe Festival.

Timimie: I like that we can perform it in a big city as well since in a colonial context it is very easy to become super exotified and since it was outside of Sápmi… But it was still a BIPOC and very Sámi context since there are Sámis and other indigenous people as well living in Stockholm. So having not just close friends and family but other BIPOC people coming there and seeing this was amazing and also having it live streamed, meaning that other people can watch it from other places…it was absolutely fantastic. And at that time, we had no idea that there was a prize involved - and when we won we were like “oh nice that’s cool” until our producer said, “It’s kind of actually a thing” (both of them laughing). I have no idea what to expect from Gothenburg, but the feelings and memories connected to the Fringe Festival are right now very positive. On the other hand, I also have no idea what to expect so close to the elections… However, I think it is going to be really nice, I think we are going to have a queer audience, and generally feels really good to be there!

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