Winter Elsewhere

Shetland Textile Museum demonstrator/volunteer Ingirid Eunson spent a week in the very north of Sweden, visiting the STM custodian Brita Hövenmark. Another visitor with Brita from Shetland/Durham Uni was Illona Kater, who is planning a Phd around reindeer, climate change and other changes which might affect reindeer-herding in the North. (Many of you will know Illona’s mum Outi, who was also a volunteer with the Museum, and has written many lovely Fair Isle patterns.)

While the trustees and gardening volunteers beavered away in the Böd, Brita and Ingirid lolled around in the frozen North. Most of Ingirid’s stay was cold, with temperatures between -12C and as low as -30C – not just one day, but more or less the whole stay.

Just a bit colder than Shetland!

10 km north of the Arctic Circle is Brita’s home, the small town of Jokkmokk, which hosts a very well-known winter market during the first Thursday, Friday and Saturday of February. This winter market is the oldest consecutive market in Sweden, and this year marked its 414th appearance.

Traditionally it was a market where Sami people of the North would gather to be taxed, trade furs for coffee, flour and other necessities, meet each other and exchange news. Today it is an enormous cultural extravaganza, with market stalls selling everything from candies and handicrafts to tractors. Concerts, films, talks and exhibitions take place in every possible empty space. It is also a heimfarin, when many Jokkmokk people in exile take the opportunity to reconnect with old friends and family, not to mention the unbelievable number of visitors who crowd the small town of fewer than 5000 inhabitants. As many as 30.000 people visit the market during the week. Some stay for the entire week, others only for a few hours. Much of what is going on is centred around the Sami culture, including of course food and crafts, reindeer races, and an opportunity to meet Sami people and their reindeer.

Traditional sami dress

Many of the lectures and films took place at Ajtté, Swedish Sami and Mountain Museum. Ingirid took the opportunity to see the Museum before the market opened, and it was good that she did, as during the market the place was packed with visitors. She did however listen to a lecture about the Arctic fox, as well as one about Shetland knitting! The Shetland knitting was thanks to Brita, who gave a talk about this and her knitting at the Museum!

The Museum of course has a great collection of Sami artefacts, but you would see the Sami people dressed in traditional clothing everywhere you went.

Brita opened a small shop together with her friend Ketty in ”Ketty’s kuvös”. Kuvös is Swedish for an incubator for premature babies, but also a slang word for a sun porch for retired people. As you may have guessed knitwear was sold there!

When the market became too much, Ingirid could come and get some soup, tea or just sit and relax in Ketty’s kitchen. It did snow some, and to get the car out of the garage to go to town snow had to be removed!

The market ended with a wonderful concert at the church on Saturday night, featuring fiddles and accordions playing traditional music from the North. A lot of the tunes came from the border area between Sweden and Finland, as the musicians were born and raised there.

Very early Monday morning Ingirid took the airport taxi, which delivered her to Luleå Airport for further transport to Shetland. Unfortunately she took home with her a little tummy bug which had pestered us all during the week.