Honorary Prize to Sami artist Mari Boine

Photo: Myspace.com/boine. More on Boine on Mariboine.no

The Arts Council of Norway’s honorary prize for 2009 has been awarded to Sami musical artist Mari Boine for her contributions to Norwegian cultural life. The Prize is worth NOK 500,000.

“Boine is one of Norway’s most important artists. With her background in Sami traditions and culture she has developed new and genre-crossing musical expressions. The prize winner’s great ability to deliver through music and language makes he an international artist of great stature,” the Arts Council jury states.

The Council also points to her cooperation wiith international artists, and mentions in particular her working together with Peter Gabriel on the album One World One Voice, and with Norway’s own Jan Garbarek.

Each year, the Arts Council awards a special prize for outstanding achievement in the arts to a prominent Norwegian cultural figure. The official awards ceremony is held in the beginning of December. Internationally acclaimed recipients include actress and film director Liv Ullmann, composer Arne Nordheim, architect Sverre Fehn, author and playwright Jon Fosse.

Boine was born in Karasjohka, a small town in the Arctic regions of Norway that are also part of what is known as Samiland, named after the indigenous people whose blood she shares.

The Samis were colonised by Christians, and their culture slowly eroded until it was dismissed as worthless, so Boine became acutely aware of notions of conformity early on. Her music has always been fiercely proud of her heritage, seeking to celebrate Sami culture while bringing it to a wider audience, fired initially by her anger at the contemporary treatment of their traditions. But though she has not mellowed in her beliefs, convictions so strong that she refused to perform at the Lillehammer Winter Olympics in 1994 on the grounds that she did not want to be used as “an exotic decoration”, she has always sought new ways to integrate her ideology into her work.

Her blend of Sami folk traditions – in particular the yoik – with contemporary rock, jazz, electronica and other musical forms sourced from around the planet has made her a revered figure at home and abroad. From the release of her second album, Gula Gula (from 1989), on Peter Gabriel’s Real World label, to 2007’s collection of remixes by such acclaimed artists as Mental Overdrive and The Knife, her international status has been unquestionable.

The interview and the concert under was recorded when Mari Boine visited Oslo, Norway, on March 3, 2008 to take part in the Music Freedom Day concert at the Nobel Peace Center. In the video Boine speaks about her personal experiences with the religious ban of joik singing.

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