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Muohtadivggažat / The Sound of Snow

Multilingual performance based on incredible, yet true, stories from the borderland between Norway, Finland, and Russia.


Pictures of the mountain of bicycles at the Storskog border post went viral in 2015. Hundreds of Syrian and Afghani refugees had discovered a loophole in the law. Then, as now, crossing the border between Russia and Norway on foot or by car was forbidden, but if you arrived on a cycle it was fine.

Playwright Rawdna Carita Eira’s idea was to follow the story of one of the cycles from the cycle mountain. The cycle becomes a common thread running through an 80-year period of incredible but true episodes in the area where Norway, Finland and Russia meet.

The characters are invented, but the events of which they are a part are real. There are stories of flight and homelands, the fate of the Skolt Sami settlement in Njuõʹttjäuʹrr (Notozero), a legendary bar in Boris Gleb in 1965, the world’s deepest man-made hole, sudden openings in closed borders and of people doing what they must to survive.

Foto: Ingun A. Mæhlum

The sound of Davvieanan (“The Northlands”)

Work with the stage language for Muohtadivggažat (The Sound of Snow) has taken two years. During the performance we hear a mixture of languages based on the mother tongues and linguistic repertoire of the actors.

Northern Norway remains multilingual despite over a century of Norwegianisation. But the blend of languages that so many have grown up with is seldom heard in the public domain. They have been banished to the private sphere.sphere. The monolingual hegemony is powerful, not least in the theatre. It has become an established truth that every language must have its own theatre. This is a truth that we in Ferske Scener wish to challenge.

Like many people in the north, we in Ferske Scener have a multicultural background. Our languages are Norwegian, Finnish and Sami, and, gradually, English. ‘Muohtadivggažat’ is the first in a series of projects where we explore this multilingualism. On this occasion, our major work partner has been the Sami National Theatre, Beaivváš. Playwright Rawdna Carita Eira and director Kristin Bjørn are behind most of the language work, with considerable contributions from the actors.

Language is a tool for reaching out to other people. It is not simply the concrete content of the words that provide meaning. It has been a great pleasure to discover that both we and the audience understand much more than we thought when we started.

About the playwright

Rawdna Carita Eira (1970) is a poet, librettist and playwright, and was nominated for the Nordic Council’s Prize for Literature in 2012. In 2019, her opera Two Odysseys: Gállábártnit had its premiere in Canada. In 2020, the performance was nominated for the Dora Award. With a father from Finnskogen (Solør) and a mother from a reindeer-herding family in Guovdageaidnu, Eira has a Sami/Norwegian/Forest Finnish background. She has lived her whole life in the cusp between Sami and Norwegian culture. Her family maintained a life of reindeer husbandry in South Helgeland until 2002. Today, Eira works as a playwright and house manager, and withsubtitling and translation, at the Sami National Theatre, Beaivváš. She speaks North Sami fluently and understands/occasionally writes in South Sami and Lule Sami too.

Extract from Scenekunst.no’s review of the reading at Scenetekstivalen 4.10.2020:

Although I didn’t understand a couple of the languages, I found this not to be a problem. For inside me I have my own multilingualism which translates the emotional registers the actors communicate on a primitive human level. I don’t necessarily understand everything, but I understand nevertheless. Muohtadivggažat/The Sound of Snow operates at an especially high level that I do not have the exact language to explain but which is particularly effective in activating the tear ducts.
Rania Broud, scenekunst.no

Extract from Nordlys.no’s review of the performances at Hålogaland Teater 11-13th November 2021

“What’s so beautiful is that it presents our shared history and shared lives. Both now and back then. It presents people who fall in love across borders and ethnicity, people who dream, collect driftwood, hide from war, and manage existence together with, and alongside, each other. That’s something we don’t see very often on stage.”

“The strength of the performance lies precisely in this idea of community despite everything, and in the playful, open-minded approach. It is informal, the story is constantly being interrupted, and the audience is drawn into the community in a most friendly manner.”

Anki Gerhardsen, for Nordlys