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Headlinesn > Entertainment > Queen Sonja of Norway calls art a ‘unifying force in turbulent times’ at print awards
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Queen Sonja of Norway calls art a ‘unifying force in turbulent times’ at print awards

Queen Sonja of Norway has described art as a “unifying force in turbulent times” as she awarded the world’s most important prize for printmaking to Tomas Colbengtson, an indigenous Sámi artist.

At a ceremony in Bodø, a European Capital of Culture for 2024, Queen Sonja also presented Anselm Kiefer with a lifetime achievement award and the young Swedish artist, Maria Kayo Mpoyi, with an inspiration award.

Speaking to The Independent, the Norwegian monarch emphasised the importance of communication and shared culture in “turbulent times”.

Her remarks come as Europe prepares for a series of elections this week in which far-right parties are expected to gain footholds.

Queen Sonja added: “We just have to go on.”

Bodø is one of three European Capitals of Culture in 2024 and has more than 1,000 events scheduled throughout the year.

Historian and television presenter Simon Schama, who gave a lecture on the work of the acclaimed artist Keifer, used the awards to warn of the importance of preserving printmaking and graphic art now that the “threatening age of AI is upon us”.

Sámi artist Colbengtson won the Queen Sonja Print Award 2024, while Kiefer was awarded the Queen Sonja Print Award Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Swedish artist Maria Kayo Mpoyi won the QSPA Inspirational Award.

“I am delighted that this year the award has gone to a Sami artist,” Queen Sonja said. “Tomas Colbengtson’s work is already represented in museum collections and I hope this prize will make his work know even more widely internationally”.

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(Nathan Van de Graaf. Lofoten, Norway.jpg)

Preserving Sámi culture

Discussing how his work is inspired by the destruction of Sámi culture in Norway in the first half of the 20th century, Colbengtson’s work attempts to preserve the life and traditions of Indigenous communities by reflecting culture through art.

However, indigenous communities are still facing the loss of their livelihoods and identities due to an erosion of rights as Norway’s transition from gas and oil to green energies, which have come at the cost of land traditionally used by Sámi people to herd reindeer.

Sámi artist Tomas Colbengtson won the Queen Sonja Print Award 2024
Sámi artist Tomas Colbengtson won the Queen Sonja Print Award 2024 (Queen Sonja Printmaking Awards 2024)

War and peace, and art

The topic of art’s role in peace was also central to discussions throughout the awards.

During Schama’s talk on printmaking, the historian took issue with the Norwegian playwright and Nobel Prize winner Jon Fosse, who said in March that “war and art are opposites, just as war and peace are opposites. Art is peace”.

Schama countered: “It would be nice to think that art was the conveyor of peace. But I’m frankly not sure about this. I don’t know that anyone who has an encounter with the Sistine Chapel comes out feeling more peaceful, or with a Caravaggio, or with Jackson Pollock, or with one of the great works of Anselm Kiefer.

“I think art has the capacity, like strong history, to be a disturber of the peace. One of the measures of great art and great history, I think, is that it’s likely to give you insomnia, even if there is no midnight sun around”.

Anselm Kiefer joins past winners of The Queen Sonja Lifetime Achievement Award including David Hockney in 201
Anselm Kiefer joins past winners of The Queen Sonja Lifetime Achievement Award including David Hockney in 201 (Queen Sonja 2024)
Swedish artist Maria Kayo Mpoyi won the QSPA Inspirational Award
Swedish artist Maria Kayo Mpoyi won the QSPA Inspirational Award (Maria Kayo Mpoyi. Photo by Kaysa Göransson.jpg)

Anselm Kiefer joins past winners of The Queen Sonja Lifetime Achievement Award including David Hockney in 2018, Paula Rego in 2020, and William Kentridge in 2022.

HM Queen Sonja said: “It is a great honour for the QSPA board to present Anselm Kiefer with the Lifetime Achievement Award for his distinguished contribution to the art of printmaking through a long and outstanding career”.

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