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Nils-Aslak Valkeapää

Nils-Aslak Valkeapää

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Nils-Aslak Valkeapää, known as Áillohaš in the Northern Sami language (23 March 1943 - 26 November 2001) was a Finnish Sami
Sami people
The Sami people, also spelled Sámi, or Saami, are the arctic indigenous people inhabiting Sápmi, which today encompasses parts of far northern Sweden, Norway, Finland, the Kola Peninsula of Russia, and the border area between south and middle Sweden and Norway. The Sámi are Europe’s northernmost...

 writer, musician and artist. He was born in Enontekiö
Enontekiö is a municipality in the Finnish part of Lapland with approx. inhabitants. It is situated in the outermost northwest of the country and occupies a large and very sparsely populated area of about between the Swedish and Norwegian border...

 in Lapland province, Finland. He lived most of his life in Käsivarsi, close to the border of Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

, and also in Skibotn
Skibotn is a village with approximately 700 inhabitants in Storfjord municipality, located on the southeastern shore of the Lyngen Fjord in the Northern Norwegian county of Troms. The village area is located at the crossroads of the highways E6 and E8...

 in Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

. Valkeapää was born to a family of traditional reindeer
The reindeer , also known as the caribou in North America, is a deer from the Arctic and Subarctic, including both resident and migratory populations. While overall widespread and numerous, some of its subspecies are rare and one has already gone extinct.Reindeer vary considerably in color and size...

 herders, but was trained as a school teacher. His most well known international debut was when he performed at the opening ceremony
1994 Winter Olympics opening ceremony
The 1994 Winter Olympics opening ceremony took place on 12 February 1994 at Lysgårdsbakken in Lillehammer, Norway. Artistic content was made to present a range of Norwegian culture, included Sami joik, Telemark skiing, fiddlers and folk dancing, simulations of traditional weddings and their...

 of the 1994 Winter Olympic Games in Lillehammer
is a town and municipality in Oppland county, Norway, globally known for hosting the 1994 Winter Olympics. It is part of the traditional region of Gudbrandsdal. The administrative centre of the municipality is the town of Lillehammer. As of May 2011, the population of the town of Lillehammer was...

, Norway.


The traditional Sami singing of the joik was important in his music, as well as in his painting and in written works. He was first recognised as an artist for his joik during the 1960s, with his first recording Jojkuja from 1968, which contained modernised joik. Valkeapeää wrote the music to the motion picture Ofelaš, internationally known as The Pathfinder in 1987, which was directed by Nils Gaup
Nils Gaup
-Career:Gaup was born in Kautokeino, Finnmark County in Northern Norway. He first intended to become an athlete but from 1974 to 1978 he went to drama school and studied at the Beaivváš Sámi Theatre in Kautokeino...


As a writer, he mainly wrote in Sami with his work translated into other languages and eventually published eight collections of poems. One of his best known is Beaivi áhčážan which has been translated to English, titled The Sun, My Father.

Nils-Aslak Valkeapää died on his way home from Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

 during a stay in Helsinki
Helsinki is the capital and largest city in Finland. It is in the region of Uusimaa, located in southern Finland, on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, an arm of the Baltic Sea. The population of the city of Helsinki is , making it by far the most populous municipality in Finland. Helsinki is...

 at the age of 58. The possible cause of death was from complications from a 1996 automobile accident.

Posthumous publication of Nils-Aslak Valkeapää's work includes two poems included on his godson Niko Valkeapää
Niko Valkeapää
Niko-Mihkal Valkeapää is a Sami musician and joiker . He has been described as "one of Sami music's foremost performers." Valkeapää has been living in Kautokeino, Norway since 1990...

's eponymous début album. An article published by the Music Information Center Norway stated, "In his trademark, understated style, Niko composes melodies that weave their way into and out of his godfather’s words. Nils Aslak Valkeapää was one of the foremost exponents of Sami art and culture through his long and distinguished career as a poet, composer and artist. Says Niko on his godfather’s influence: 'I can’t deny that Nils Aslak was a role model for me – he was a figure that I would look up to. He has been a source of inspiration and I have included two of his poems on my album to pay homage to him.”http://www.mic.no/mic.nsf/doc/art2003101614141626442664

A recording of Nils-Aslak Valkeapää performing his joik, forms the centrepiece of "Prayer For The Earth", a track on The Songs of Distant Earth
The Songs of Distant Earth (album)
The Songs of Distant Earth is the 16th album by Mike Oldfield, released in 1994. It is based on Arthur C. Clarke's science fiction novel The Songs of Distant Earth.- Release details :...

, the 1994 album by British musician Mike Oldfield
Mike Oldfield
Michael Gordon Oldfield is an English multi-instrumentalist musician and composer, working a style that blends progressive rock, folk, ethnic or world music, classical music, electronic music, New Age, and more recently, dance. His music is often elaborate and complex in nature...


Written works

  • Eanni, eannázan (2001) ISBN 8290625405
  • Girddán, seivvodan (1999) ISBN 8290625340
  • The Sun, My Father (1997) ISBN 8290625324
  • In the shadow of midnight sun. Contemporary Sámi prose and poetry (1997) ISBN 8273743098
  • Jus gaccebiehtár bohkosivccii (1996)
  • Nu guhkkin dat mii lahka: så fjernt det naere (1994) ISBN 8290625200
  • Trekways of the Wind (1994) Univ of Arizona Press, ISBN 8290625219
  • Aurinko, isäni (1992) Ulkomainen Kirjallisuus, ISBN 9788290625158
  • Fadir min, solin (1992)
  • Solen, min far (1990)
  • Vindens veier (1990)
  • Beaivi áhcázan (1988)
  • Vidderna inom mig (1987)
  • Ich bin des windigen Berges Kind (1985)
  • Ruoktu váimmus (1985) (combination of earlier poem collections)
  • Ádjaga silbasuonat (1981)
  • Kevään yöt niin valoisat (1980)
  • Lávllo vizár biellocizás (1976)
  • Gida ijat cuov’gadat (1974)