Norwegians often claim themselves to be not typically very social on the whole. But they’re willing to help, even if that means exchanging no words in the process. In three years of coming back and forth here, from my personal experience, I still don’t buy into that first part, but the later is truly evident on Træna - the helping part. Living in an island municipality of less than 500, it’s quickly apparent how much residents do for each other and the community itself. In just two weeks, I’ve experienced how much help they offer a stranger with a penchant for photos and fish skin.
Jokes about the cold aside, each resident wears a lot of hats here. There isn’t a vast population to call upon when you need something built or to organize a community function. The Havfolket ("sea folks" as they dub themselves) that are here are the Havfolket that do the work. When I first visited the Northern Company’s seaweed factory, I learned that the woman who heads up production there, Merethe, is also the local host for Træna Arctic Fishing, a new cabin rental on Selvær, as well as serves as Head of the Board of Træna Fisker AS. For 14 years, the annual international music festival Trænafestivalen runs because town leaders, librarians, cafe owners, spa owners and ferry drivers take on extra jobs to make sure the festival goes on without a hitch. In that way, the community here reminds me of my experience in roller derby - how an assorted group of people offer their interests and talents in a variety of necessary niche roles. There’s a lot of work that needs to get done for the magic that consistently happens in Træna. Residents are invested, so that it all does.
Sonja Langskjæret was born on Husøya. She is a gifted illustrator and muralist whose family has a long history on the islands of Træna. Her parents were born on two tiny, eponymous islands: her mother from Sandøya and her father from Langskjæret. I joked that when they came together it was like royalty uniting kingdoms in Game of Thrones. Her father and her brother still have homes that serve as summer cabins on their namesake island Langskjæret. In fact, theirs are the only two homes on the island. Only one person now lives on Sandøya: last name: Sandøy.
Sonja lived outside of London where she studied animation. After school, she came back to Træna where she paints, does some design work, assists the town as a Host at the Tourism Information, and also works a few nights a week serving at the local pub Havfolkets Hus, which is where I first met her. She told me “If you see a mural in Træna, I probably painted it.” It’s true. Her presence is visible. And last year, Sonja painted a historically significant piece on a barn in Sandøya. Sonja is creative, humble and loves otters.
The natural world around Sonja is intrinsic to her being. Her grounding is mountainous. Her calm is marine. She is the kind of person for which I make my products for Life on Mars. People who are capable and self-sufficient, who have a eye on the natural world and a pull to be in communion with it, people who identify with the colors and textures of life, people who want to adventure. I asked her to help me shoot some images of my hip bags to convey that, and she kindly obliged.
Sonja came dressed in colors that exactly complemented the location that I had envisioned, without me even telling her. She didn’t complain when my framing took her ankle deep in water Working with her was a breeze (the tropical island type, not the blustery Træna island type!) with and I’m stoked about what we got shot.
Takk for the help, Sonja!
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