Evolving gákti

Inga Porsanger
(above) of Kárášjoga specializes in traditional clothing in new forms. With modern cuts and vibrant colors, she transforms beloved familiar garments into new and exciting creations. Boot bands in every color of the rainbow are her trademark.

“It is a little different. On the one hand it is something familiar, and at the same it can feel a little strange.” Porsanger says of her own work.

It is not the broad strokes that she remakes when she designs new creations. The traditional form is sacred, but she experiments with colors and fabrics. Porsanger pulls out a typical woman’s blue gakti. “The gákti itself is a traditional gákti, but it becomes more exciting when it is sewn in denim. I call this the blue jean gákti.”

Inga finds support from a colleague in a neighboring county. Risten Rávdná Hætta Gaup (right) was the first seamstress to make modern versions of traditional Sami clothing. When she sensed that the traditional clothes were on the way out, she started her own shop in 1974.

“People were beginning to go around in the usual Norwegian clothes. It seemed we were beginning to lose Sami identity, and I didn’t want that to happen,” says
Hætta Gaup. So she made modern versions of the Sami gákti, which are known to this day. She is happy that Porsanger is leading this legacy onward. “I should have been doing what Inga is doing myself,” she says.

Not everyone likes that this evolution is going forward. Ellen Marie Turi Gaup (left) has banked on traditional products. She says that of course there is a need for change, but only to a certain degree.

“It would have been unacceptable if the elders had worn pink boot bands. At the same time, I think it’s great that young people use traditional attire in new shapes and colors, even a pink gákti,” says Turi Gaup.

The Sami gákti has always been happy in combinations of strong colors. Turi Gaup has adorned her everyday gákti with a pink scarf for this occasion. Even so she has a hard time imagining herself in a pink gákti. “The only way I could challenge traditional limits would be if I were younger,” laughs Turi Gaup.

NRK Sami Radio 11/23/07
Photos: Sara Beate Eira/NRK

Inga Porsanger works with soft duodji and her company Inka Duodji is based in
Kárášjoga, Norway. The website is currently only in Norwegian, but you can view some of her work online and email inka@e-vei.no for further inquiries.

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