Marja Helander: Davvi (Pohjoinen) ja Suodji (Suoja)

04.06.2022 - 28.08.2022

Marja Helander’s works contemplate the complicated relationship between people and nature through the perspective of environmental issues. For a number of years, Helander has captured images of the impacts of the mining industry on the indigenous Sámi Homeland in the northern Fennoscandian Peninsula. She examines the unavoidable relationship between the mining industry and modern standards of living and our consumer culture, and the impact mining has on the sensitive nature of the northern regions that ultimately affects the traditional livelihoods of the indigenous Sámi peoples. 

In her series Davvi (North), showcased in the Northern Photographic Centre, Helander visualises the problems that emerge between Sámi traditions and modern society. Nickel extracted from the Kola Peninsula is used for making stainless steel and batteries for mobile telephones. Apatite mined from the Khibinsky tundras is used to produce phosphates as fertilisers to satisfy the needs of agriculture. Nature is of vital importance for the Sámi. Helander’s work emphasises the interdependence of people and nature. In addition to landscapes, the artist takes animal characters to connect herself to the traditional Sámi worldview. “I have always wanted to depict human flesh and how a human being is just an animal among other animals, dependent on nature, ecosystems and earth. We form part of nature’s own cycle of life, a pile of particles and molecules.”  Despite the serious themes, her works are humorous and Helander playfully highlights collisions between people and nature in her new self-portraits.

The Northern Photographic Centre also shows Helander’s most recent short film Suodji (Shelter) adapting an old tale from Utsjoki in the Sámi Homeland to the present day. The short film tells the story of the director’s relative Oula Iivari Helander (Ovllá-Ivvár Helander) and his life during the Spanish Flu pandemic in Utsjoki back in 1918. Oula Iivari Helander decided to cheat death and took his fate into his own hands. Today, the coronavirus is causing similar uncertainty and is a global threat. The leading character in the short film decides to follow in the footsteps of Oula Iivari. But in the end, who is who?

Cultural Centre Valve and Northern Photographic Centre are closed in July.



Marja Helander (b. 1965) balances art and politics in her works. Helander’s artistic work is rooted in her Sámi background, and her works focus on the rights of indigenous peoples, environmental issues in the northern regions, and climate change. Helander uses her work to study the conflicts that arise between the Sámi culture and modern society using photographs and videos, while processing her own identity between the Sámi and Finnish cultures. She was awarded the Risto Jarva Award at the Tampere Film Festival in 2018 for her short film Eatnanvuloš Lottit – Maan sisällä linnut (Birds in the Earth), and the Visual Artist Award by the Artists’ Association of Finland. The Mänttä Art Festival selected Marja Helander as the curator for the 2019 exhibition. She has also been awarded the Suomi Award in 2019 and the Aesthetic Deed of the Year Award in 2020 by the Finnish Society for Aesthetics.

Marja Helander, Waiting for the Morning


  • Marja Helander, Giron
  • Marja Helander, The Evening Covers Everything
  • Marja Helander, Looking into Nightfall