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The first-ever Young Dance Artist Award has been bestowed upon Biret and Gáddjá Haarla Pieski, two talented Sámi dancers from Dalvaks, Utsjoki. This new award, valued at €8,000, aims to bolster the careers of young artists, particularly those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, by encouraging them to create unique art and advance in their professional journeys.

Funded by the Keele Foundation, which promotes active lifestyles and supports arts, science, and culture, the award is part of a broader initiative to assist young and domestic artists across various fields.

Biret and Gáddjá Haarla Pieski, born in 2000, began their dance training at the Sámi Cultural School in Karasjok, Norway. They graduated from the Ballet School of the Finnish National Opera in 2019 and earned their Bachelor of Dance degrees from the Performing Arts Research and Training Studios (P.A.R.T.S) in Brussels in 2022. Their work, "Starting from Staring - Čalmmiid Čađa," was featured at the Art & Land EU Sámi Week in Brussels in 2022. They have collaborated with theater director Pauliina Feodoroff on the "Matriarkaatti" performance at the Sámi Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2022, and with visual artist Outi Pieski on the video installation "Guhte Gullá / Here to Hear" at the Helsinki Biennale 2021.

The award jury, chaired by Riku Lehtopolku, artistic director of Kuopio Dance Festival, faced a challenging task due to the high caliber of nominees. The Haarla Pieski sisters were selected for their distinctive artistic voice and critical perspective. "They are pioneers in presenting contemporary Sámi art while honoring their cultural heritage," Lehtopolku noted. Other jury members included Marjo Kuusela, Pirjo Yli-Maunula, and Sonya Lindfors.

The Haarla Pieski sisters have several projects lined up, including performances of "Matriarkaatti" in Germany and the development of the performance-concert "Juovssaheaddji - The Rematriator," set to premiere in Norway next year. This project involves writer Niillas Holmberg, composer Jakop Janssønn, and the Arctic Philharmonic. Additionally, they continue to work on various other projects.

The recipients expressed their gratitude for the recognition. "It is a great honor to receive this award and acknowledgment for our work. Thank you to the jury, Kuopio Dance Festival, and our family and friends who have supported us over the years."

The Haarla Pieski sisters plan to use the prize money to support the protection of the sacred Rástegáisá mountain area. They also aim to highlight the involvement of the Keele Foundation's chairman in the controversial Davvi wind farm project, which threatens Sámi cultural heritage despite widespread opposition from Sámi Parliaments in Norway and Finland.

"The project's implementation would endanger the area's biodiversity and reindeer grazing lands, undermining the Sámi culture's practice. The green transition must respect local communities and indigenous rights. This story needs to be heard because it is not too late to act!" they emphasized.

The Haarla Pieski sisters believe in the power of art to address social and political issues. "Our art aims to highlight Sámi rights and create alliances through understanding and empathy. Art can foster empowering and healing experiences within the Sámi community and beyond."

With this inaugural award, Biret and Gáddjá Haarla Pieski are poised to continue their pioneering work in the dance world, bringing attention to crucial cultural and environmental issues through their unique artistic vision.

HT

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