A swing with a wooden block as a seat

A birch tree burl swing © Joar Nango

Joar Nango

A Birch Tree Burr Swing, 2024

In 2017, the Giella preschool in Jåhkåmåhkke / Jokkmokk in northern Sweden commissioned the artists Joar Nango and Anders Rimpi to design a playground on its premises as part of their pedagogical work to strengthen Sámi cultures and languages. Based on workshops with children, the artists developed a swing made of birch tree burrs, which is now being installed here in Berlin.

Burrs on birch trunks are rounded, rhizome-like outgrowths, which are found throughout Sámpi, the indigenous lands that stretch across Fennoscandinavia, i.e. parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. Traditionally, burrs are used to make sacred Sámi drums or milk containers. The Sámi follow the principle of utilising and respecting what is available in nature. It is important to admire the shape, to embrace the form, to listen to the story and to appreciate the context of the material. 

The birch swing is based on inherited Sámi knowledge – árbediehtu – that is passed down from generation to generation, and takes this further. Nango’s practice as an artist and architect combines the archaic and the ecological as well as the physical and the spiritual, and emphasising the cyclical nature of existence in which man protects nature instead of exploiting it. In this context, he works with the term “indigenuity”, a combination of the words “ingenuity” and “indigeneity”, refering to a philosophy that utilises what is available and adopts a decolonial and political perspective. An important note: No oil was extracted from the ground or plastic shipped during the construction of this swing, and there was hardly any contact with the monetary system. Have fun!

Joar Nango is a Norwegian-Sami artist and architect. He is the founder of a mobile library that was presented in the Nordic Pavilion at the 2023 Architecture Biennale, the author of a post-capitalist indigenous cinematography, a polymath and a tireless thinker and creator.