November 28, 2001
Nils-Alsak Valkeapää, Ailu, renowned Sami writer, artist and yoik
performer, died in Espoo (Helsinki) on November 26, 2001 after having
returned from a cultural sojourn in Japan. He was 58. Since the 1960s,
when he began to revive and promote the performance of yoik, Ailu had
become the cultural representative of Sami within Sapmi in northernmost
Europe and internationally throughout the Arctic and other continents.
He was present, among other international indigenous events, at the
founding meeting of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference in Barrow in 1977.
He was the voice of indigenous peoples globally. He was honored with
many awards for his artistic works among them the Nordic Council
Literature Prize in 1991, and he designed and performed the opening
ceremony at the Winter Olympics in Lillehammar in 1994, an impressive
display of integrity and identity which was carried world-wide.
In his humbleness, overcoming in his last few years a life-threatening
car accident in 1996, he touched many people and peoples through his
multifaceted artistic interpretations of human-environmental relations.
His spirit and voice will be with us in the future.
Ludger M|ller-Wille, McGill University, Montreal, Canada