Britta Marakatt-Labba, Giron/Kiruna/Kieruna (detail, right section), 1989, triptych, collage and embroidery, 55 1⁄8 × 59".

Britta Marakatt-Labba

Lunds konsthall

In 2017, the inclusion of Britta Marakatt-Labba’s vast embroidery Historjá (History), 2003–2007—a sweeping account of the Sámi people—in Documenta 14 risked framing the artist’s work merely as a manifestation of the current desire to decolonize the art world. But to so easily dismiss the light-handed narrative of resistance and oppression stitched into this work, which delves deep into the past, would be a mistake. Contained within the tapestry is the chronicle of the Sámi people, from the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century campaigns for their Christianization and the imposition of national borders on their territory, to the eugenics experiments carried out by Sweden’s State Institute for Racial Biology in the 1920s as a “scientific” means of legitimizing the colonial expansion, effected through the continuing encroachment of the forestry, hydropower, and mining industries to the north.

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