In My Heart

Aillohas was an important Sami ambassador


Nils-Aslak Valkeapää, or Aillohas, is one of the most recognized Lapp artists internationally. He was a proficient yoiker, poet, writer, artist and actor. He gave new life to the yoik. He died November 26, 2001 at the age of 58.

Aillohas was a Finnish citizen. He was born in Enontekiö in Finnish Lapland. He lived most of his life in Käsivarsi, close to the border of Sweden, but also in Skibotn in Norway. Valkeapää was born to a family of traditional reindeer herders, but was trained as a school teacher.

Ailohas His most well known international debut was when he performed at the opening ceremony of the 1994 Winter Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway.

The traditional Sami yoik was important in his music and in his paintings and written works. Valkeapeää wrote the music to the motion picture Ofelaš, known as The Pathfinder in 1987. It was directed by Nils Gaup. Valkeapää 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 áh?ážan" ("The Sun, my Father") which has been translated to English, titled The Sun, My Father.

During his lifetime Aillohas was a productive artist. Aillohas was a fine and softspoken person.In the winter of 1996 he was seriously injured in a car accident and for some time he couldn't walk and talk.

In October 2001 he went to Japan to partake in a presentation of Lapp poetry and yoik and a Lapp art exhibition. He died on his way back to Sápmi.

(Drawing by Erna Fjelldahl)

Áillohaš was an important Sami ambassador (or Lapp ambassador). He wanted Sami literature, Sami music and pictorial art to become accessible for the general public. Mother Nature was important to Áillohaš, and he viewed it in a holistic perspective. His artistic works shows that he was inspired by his love for nature.

Here are some of the highlights of his life:
1966: starts his career as an artist
1968: his first joik LP, Joikuja, is released
1971: he publishes Greetings From Lapland
1975: he attends the World Council of Indigenous Peoples (WCIP) first meeting at Port Alberni in Canada.
1982: he tours North America with Seppo (Paroni) Paakkunainen and performs in New York, Seattle, Los Angeles, Minneapolis and St. Paul
1988: he acts in Nils Gaup's The Pathfinder, which is nominated for an Academy Award for the Best Foreign Film of 1989. Valkeapää also writes the story.
1988: he publishes Beáivi Áh?ázan, (The Sun, My Father), a book with his drawings and poetry in the Sami language.
1989: he presents a seminar, "Sun, Thunder and Heaven's Fires," at Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota.
1991: he receives the Nordic Council's Prize for Literature
1991: an English translation of his poem "My Home is In My Heart" appears on the Norwegian television series "Solens sönn og månens datter"
1992: he releases a four CD set to accompany the book "Beaivi, Áh?ázan"
1994: he opens the Lillehammer, Norway Winter Olympics with a joik, which draws worldwide attention to Norway's Sami People
1994: he publishes an English translation of his poetry trilogy "Trekways of the Wind"
1994: he presents a multi-media performance "Trekways of the Wind: the Sami Experience" at Augsburg College, Minneapolis, and Suomi College, Hancock, Michigan
1994: he receives an honorary Doctorate in Philosophy from the University of Oulo, Finland
1997: he publishes "The Sun, My Father" in English
1999: he receives an honorary Doctorate in Philosophy from the University of Lapland, Rovaniemi, Finland
2001: he records a compilation CD of his joiks with Seppo (Paroni) Paakkunainen, which is released in Japan
2001: publishes his last poetry book, "Eanni Eannázan"

Read some more about Aillohas.

Where the Reindeer Roam