Umeå2014 European Capital of Culture

Umeå2014, children heart

Eight spectacular seasons

Umeå's year as European Capital of Culture gives Sami society and culture an international platform. As the event reaches it's half-way point, we look at the highlights so far, the performances still to come and the legacy of this special event.

The Sami people divide the year into eight, rather than four, seasons and it is these eight seasons, closely linked to the life cycle of the reindeer, which provided the structure and starting point for the year-long schedule of cultural events that make up Umeå 2014. The choice of Umeå – the northernmost city ever to hold the title of Cultural Capital of Europe – was partly due to the city’s very special connection with the EU’s only indigenous people and their fascinating culture.

‘The Sami seasons are still relevant to the Sami lifestyle today,’ explains Shauna Mae Adams, the event’s Program Producer, ‘each season has it’s own story.’ The Umeå2014 events began on 30 January, in ‘Dálvvie’, the first season, when the earth rests under a thick blanket of snow. The opening ceremony, ‘Burning Snow’ attended by Crown Princess Victoria, was a multi-media spectacular which literally and metaphorically set the Umeå river on fire.

Burning Snow, the opening ceremony of Umeå2014. Photo: Håkan Larsson


Other highlights of the Dálvvie season included a Sami-Chinese dance project, the opening of Guitars – The Museum and an exhibition called ‘Umeå – The European Capital of Hardcore 1989-2000.’

Dálvvie gave way to Gijrradálvvie – the early spring time of awakening. This was celebrated with a concert by Umeå native, indiepop singer Sofia Jannok and the largest literary festival in Sweden, among many other events.

Gijrra, the spring season, began on 30 April and saw a spectacular collaboration between five Norrland theatre companies called Norrländsk Passion.

As we enter summer and Gijrragiessie – the time of growth – the year reaches its half-way point. This is the season when the midges drive the reindeer up to the mountain glaciers, calves are born and the Sami move up to the mountains with their herds. This green, fertile period, with its white nights, is celebrated with an international choral festival called ‘A Choral Midsummer Light’s Dream’ and ‘Shakespeare in the Park’ – free summer theatre performances of improvised Shakespeare.

Norrland Passion. Photo: Patrick Degerman


Giessie – the short, light summer, a time of contemplation, follows with an outdoor perfor-mance of Elektra by Strauss Opera and a crowd-funded music festival called U x U. As the nights start to draw in, Tjakttjagiessie, the harvest time, begins. Highlights of this season will be a five-day food festival, with a focus on Sami food culture, and a Street Art installation among Umeå’s streets and houses.

Tjakttja, autumn, begins on 10 October and includes a film festival, an opera based on Per Olov Enqvist’s novel Blanche and Marie and interactive art from Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. The Sami year, and Umeå’s year-long reign as Capital of Culture, draws to a close with Tjakttjadálvvie – the darkest time of the year, when the reindeer move to their winter pastures. The event will end with ‘Future Flows Through Us’, a closing party which will celebrate life going forward by illuminating the city in a way which has never before been seen in Umeå.

Numerous Sami projects are included in the program throughout the year, including an exhibition of 8 Sami artists, including Katarina Pirak Sikku and Joar Nango, which brings together artists from the Sami regions of Norway and Finland as well as Sweden, and Made in Sápmi – exhibiting traditional Sami handwork, design and crafts. 

‘For me, one of the key highlights of the year is the fact that we are giving a platform to Sami projects and a chance for them to stand in the limelight,’ says Adams. ‘Throughout the year we have a theme of challenging power, examining equality issues and the status of marginalized peoples.’

Elektra. Photo: Emil Nyström


‘Elektra by Strauss by Norrland’s Opera in August will also be a spectacular event,’ continues Adams, ‘the largest outdoor opera in Norrland. And the Norr-land Passion project was amazing, the largest theatre project of the year.’

Apart from the memories of numerous unique and spectacular musical, art, theatre and cinematic events and performances, the project is intended to create controversy, encourage debate, get people to try new experiences and start talking about culture. ‘I hope the legacy of Umeå 2014 will be that people continue to engage about the importance of culture in society,’ says Adams.