Toulluvaara Skyline in the 60’s, Photo: Johannes Marainen
KIRUNA Ortdrivaren / eng. KIRUNA The Drift Block
70 min documentary, Year 2015 – ca 2018
Director: Liselotte Wajstedt
A production of Liselotte Wajstedt
With support from:
Co Producers: Filmpool Nord
Sámi council, 2015
Norrlands läns landsting, 2015
Samiske Kunstneres og Forfatteres Vederlagsfond, arbetsstipendium 2015
Privat: AB Skrot Johan Invest
The name of my new film is Kiruna The Drift Block. The name The Drift Block, Ortdrivaren in Swedish, refers to the fantastic housing block Ortdrivaren developed by the architect Ralph Erskine. He took the functional and aesthetic concerns of our mountainous world and the mine mountain into consideration.
Moving the town Kiruna is a process that will take many years and it is necessary to follow the process on site. I have a unique position to do so as I grew up in Kiruna and currently live there. I work so to speak from the inside and can follow the process at close quarters.
My aim now is to tell the story of the town Kiruna in an in-depth project. It is important to think about place and people. What happens in the glitches between place and human beings?
Kiruna is my home. I think a lot about home and the meaning of home, place and identity. I grew up in Kiruna with a Sami mother and a father who comes of a people that lived in symbiosis with the Samis. This people is called Lantalaiset, some of them call themselves Kväner today.
I left Kiruna and moved south in 1991, studied art and started making films in 2005. I lived in several places all over Sweden. But I always longed for ”home.” So, 3 years ago I left Stockholm and moved back to Kiruna. It feels natural in many ways.
Kiruna is a lot! To me, in my heart, it is my Sami identity that makes me feel part of the nature up here in the north. I love the mountains, the forests and my big family. But Kiruna is also an important and very special town. Kiruna is a working-class town, has always been so and is still. The town depends completely on the mine. Without the mine I doubt that Kiruna would exist in its present form. At the moment, it is also very exciting as the town is moving. It does not happen very often that plans are made to move an entire town
What is most tangible is perhaps that I grew up on solid ground. We knew nothing about the fact that our neighborhood was to be demolished and fall into a pit. The children growing up today know that the place is not secure. I wonder how it affects them to live somewhere between now and then? What was they haven’t known, what’s now is unsure and what’s to come does not exist.
In between 2007 and 2011, I made the film Kiruna – Space Road (Kiruna – Rymdvägen). Here, I tell about my childhood experience in Kiruna during the 70s and 80s and about losing the place of my childhood and subsequently a sense of security. I tell about the town and how it is built around the mine.
As I realized in 2005 that my houses were to be pulled down, because otherwise they would fall into an abyss, I panicked and experienced it as the disappearance of my memories; I would have nothing left to return to. I started looking for what I had forgotten before it would be too late.
The people of Kiruna know that it has to be done. Most of them accept it straightforwardly as it is their livelihood. But some people I have talked to feel grief. I met a family that owns a house in the demolishing area where the mining company LKAB right now buys property at market value. They do not want to sell their house since all family memories are there. The family has lived there for 6 generations. The house is one of the oldest in Kiruna, built in 1904.
But many people I have talked to do not believe in the move. It is dragging on, they say, and it depends on the ups and downs of the business cycle. Right now it is a recession and the process has stopped, they believe.
Many of those I grew up with and some of my relatives have had to leave the Ullspiran area. The houses are being demolished at the moment and half of the backyards have been leveled with the ground. It sure is sad.
I believe many feel cheated. They have to move to newly produced housing that sometimes cost twice as much. People, the retired in particular, are worried. And I understand them. How could a retired person suddenly be able to afford to pay a rent twice as much? Furthermore, it is uncertain whether they can get a place in a home for the elderly. Large parts of the welfare system, such as public health care and schools, have been shut down. Many people in Kiruna feel neglected. Despite the fact that there are great visions for the future.
There is another aspect that is forgotten: the situation of the Samis. The Sami villages have a rough time. I have spoken to people who feel dejected and sad and worried about how the situation will affect their livelihood and way of living. Mines are more important than reindeers and living Sami culture. The mountain on which Kiruna is situated is former autumnal grazing land for the reindeers. The path up the mountain with the reindeers went straight through that place. The paths they took are long since gone. New paths have been trodden around Kiruna, and now these too have to be remade due to new ore findings. The Samis say they don’t have a plan D anymore.