The kick-off for Umeå2014, with artist Nicolai Dunger and his friends, will be a reindeer ride from the mountains to the sea, starting in Ammarnäs.
Water is a central theme of Umea's activities during its year as a European Capital of Culture. Without the major rivers in the region, Västerbotten would not have looked like it does today. During the 2014 European Capital of Culture year, the Norrland Opera will be running the River Stories project, a collective name for a wide array of lectures, projects and events that will be taking place throughout the region and which take their inspiration from the river valleys' inhabitants and geography, culture and history.
The reindeer ride with Nicolai Dunger is one such activity. The artist himself, together with some of his fellow Sami musicians and friends, will be travelling with a reindeer ride from Ammarnäs, along the Sami's and the reindeers' migration routes, eventually arriving at the coast. The trip will take a week in total, with stops along the way for entertainment and cultural exchanges. After Ammarnäs the group will be travelling via Jillisnåle, Sorsele, Malå, Åmsele and finally Umeå.
25 January is the date for the kick-off in Ammarnäs, and the reindeer ride will be officially launched with speeches by the President of the Sami Parliaments, Håkan Jonsson, and County Governor Magdalena Andersson. After these speeches and a variety of activities involving music, entertainment and refreshments, it will then be time for Nicolai and his friends to head off - on skis - eastwards towards the coast. We called Gunnar Brandt, Chairman of Destination Ammarnäs, to ask him how the preparations are coming along:
"Things are looking good. The weekend coincides with "Lakafestivalen", a regular annual festival with an ice fishing competition, the purpose of which is to celebrate the return of the sun to this part of the world. So we were already busy with our preparations for the festival when news of the reindeer ride arrived".
Party atmosphere at Hembygsgården
"All of the activities involving Nicolai and his friends will take place around Hembygdsgården. We will be erecting an outdoor stage there, although there will also be tents and tipis on site so that people can stay warm and have somewhere to eat. After the actual opening ceremony we will continue with a concert in the church. It's going to be a lot of fun", promises Brandt.
Håkan Jonsson, a resident of Sorsele and the Chairman of the Sami Parliament of Sweden (and as such the President of all the Sami Parliaments), will be one of the official speakers at the opening ceremony.
So what does he think about holding the kick-off in Ammarnäs?
"I think it's really great. This will be a lift for the entire region, and the fact that the journey will follow the river valleys' inhabitants and culture is of great importance. Umeå is being celebrated as a European Capital of Culture in 2014, and recognising the importance of the Sami culture to Umeå and the region makes the celebrations a little more unique from an international perspective".
What more are you expecting from Umeå2014?
"Wow, that's a difficult question. But one obvious thing is that there will be a lot of international focus on the region. Hopefully there will be a lot of press here and that will help to promote tourism in the area. And just as Ammarnäs is the location of the start of the celebrations of Umeå as a European Capital of Culture in 2014, I hope that the whole of Umeå2014 can be the start of something greater for the region", says Håkan Jonsson.