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February Book Club: Black Fox

Nordiska’s Book Club

To all of you who are new, welcome! Nordiska has launched its own book club for fellow Nordic reading enthusiasts to connect and be in community with one another virtually. We invite you to expand your Nordic reading repertoire and discuss a variety of written works with us the last Thursday of each month.

To returners, welcome back! I hope you all enjoyed last month’s reunion with our favorite, slightly murderous Gothenburg resident Maud. Like last year, for the month of February we will be celebrating Sámi National Day (February 6th) by reading about an important figure in Sámi literary history, Johan Turi, through the eyes of Danish artist and ethnographer Emile Demant Hatt. If you were with us last year, you may recall that we read a collection of Sámi stories that were recorded by Hatt during her travels in Sápmi.

February’s Pick: Black Fox

A talented translator of Demant Hatt’s Danish texts, Barbara Sjoholm has written a thoroughly researched account of Danish artist and ethnographer Emilie Demant Hatt’s life including her travels in Sápmi and featuring her relationship with Sámi author, artist and herder Johan Turi.

Though she is not Sámi herself, Demant Hatt became closely acquainted with a variety of Sámi cultures during her travels in Sápmi, the Sámi’s traditional territory. After a chance encounter, Johan Turi became her guide and later friend. She was able to accompany reindeer herders during their seasonal migration over the mountains and documented her experiences. Demant Hatt recorded the stories heard around the camp fires and sketched the impressive wintery landscapes. Later she would publish her own account of her travels along with the collection of Sámi oral histories and stories.

Moreover, Demant Hatt collaborated with Johan Turi to help draft in the first book to be published in the North Sámi language, Muitalus sámiid birra (An Account of the Sámi), in which Turi explains reindeer herding lifestyles and records joik texts- important cultural oral traditions. Needless to say without giving any more spoilers, Emilie Demant Hatt had lived an extraordinary life that has been recently retold by Barbara Sjoholm in her book Black Fox: A Life of Emilie Demant Hatt, Artist and Ethnographer.

Back cover description:

In 1904 a young Danish woman met a Sami wolf hunter on a train in Sweden. This chance encounter transformed the lives of artist Emilie Demant and the hunter, Johan Turi. In 1907–8 Demant went to live with Sami families in their tents and on migrations, later writing a lively account of her experiences. She collaborated with Turi on his book about his people. On her own and later with her husband Gudmund Hatt, she roamed on foot through Sami regions as an ethnographer and folklorist. As an artist, she created many striking paintings with Sami motifs. Her exceptional life and relationships come alive in this first English-language biography.

In recounting Demant Hatt’s fascinating life, Barbara Sjoholm investigates the boundaries and influences between ethnographers and sources, the nature of authorship and visual representation, and the state of anthropology, racial biology, and politics in Scandinavia during the first half of the twentieth century.

Virtual Book Club Meeting Information

We will be meeting to discuss Black Fox on Thursday, February 24th at 6:00pm PST via Zoom. You can find the Zoom invitation link here to register for the meeting ahead of time and/or keep a look out on our social media sites for an invitation.

You can purchase your copy of Black Fox on Nordiska’s website by following this link, or come and visit us in store in downtown Poulsbo.

Published by nordiskapoulsbo

I write for, edit and maintain this blog about celebrating and being inspired by Scandinavian cultures for the Nordiska store in Poulsbo, WA.

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