Inga Ravna Eira

Inga Ravna Eira
Michal Aase
Inga Ravna Eira: Ii dát leat dat eana. Poetry collection, Davvi Girji, 2018. Nominated for the 2019 Nordic Council Literature Prize.


Iŋgos-Máhte Iŋgá, Inga Ravna Eira (born in 1948) is an author, teacher, and translator. She was born to a reindeer-herding family in Karasjok, Norway, where she still lives. She writes poetry, short stories, and children’s books in North Sami. Together with other artists, she has worked on performance shows, performing her own poems in the musical poetry show Čuollogeađgi / The Silhouette Stone.

Ii dát leat dat eana (in English, “This is not the Earth” - unpublished), a poetry collection that centres on climate change, has been nominated for the Nordic Council Literature Prize 2019. What makes the poems unique is the author’s intimacy with nature and the strong emotions that emerge from the way she writes. Each and every poem is coloured by life experiences, conveyed through unique vocabulary and climate terminology that are dying out in the modern Sami language. This is not a book that could have been written by anyone, anywhere. Rather, it could be written only by someone who was born into Sami culture more than seventy years ago, who knows and has experience of what the climate and the weather used to be like and how much has changed. The author provides examples, from many decades ago through to the present day, from the perspective of someone who is part of Sami culture. She is familiar with the time when people lived in harmony with nature, not in conflict with it. The language and the terminology both require in-depth cultural knowledge from the reader as well. The Sami, like the Inuit, have a rich language with several hundred words to describe snow, its consistency and qualities. Snow and grazing conditions are important for the primary industry of reindeer husbandry. The author has managed in this book to clearly convey many of these phenomena through her deep knowledge of the culture, her intimacy with it and her love of it.

People’s actions and their infringements against nature today are linked in the book to the prevailing family of gods in the old Sami religion - the figures who protected the Earth, humans, and life itself. These poems promulgate the goddess Uksáhká’s desperate cry to the children of the Sun - the present-day people of the Earth who no longer belong to her. They convey both a fear of the future and the indigenous people’s fear of the gods of nature. What kind of world are we leaving to future generations, and what would the gods say if they knew about today’s people and the Earth that has been completely changed? That this is no longer the Earth it once was? The poems in this collection not only demonstrate but require a clear insider position in the indigenous culture, and not just knowledge of it. This serves to give the reader a deeper perspective on the work than they get during the first reading. Climate change is a topical issue not only in Sami culture but in the cultures of all the indigenous peoples in the Nordic community, in the same way that the melting of the ice caps not only produces ripple effects in the north but can have fatal consequences worldwide. Mathis Nango’s bluish illustrations reinforce the message of this unique book both linguistically and artistically. The book’s highly topical theme will help promote interest in the Sami culture and language. With the help one of Sápmi’s oldest living writers and a high-quality work of fiction featuring the despair of Uksáhká, we believe it is the turn of unique Sami fiction to win the Nordic Council Literature Prize this year.