The Forest Finns’ understanding of nature was rooted in an eastern shamanistic tradition, and they are often associated with magic and mystery. Rituals, spells, and symbols were used as a practical tool in daily life; one that could heal and protect, or safeguard against evil.

This photographic project draws on these beliefs while investigating what it means to be a Forest Finn today, some 400 years and twelve generations later, at a time when the 17th-century way of life is long gone, and their language is no longer spoken.

I began to work on it as a graduation project at the Danish School of Journalism – and it evolved into a long-term venture. I spent three years on research and asked myself: How can I picture something as immaterial as culture – especially one that has nearly died out? I took certain elements of the past – fire, smoke and shamanism – and introduced them into the story. This blurs the lines between reality and fiction, between documentation and imagination. It is a deliberate attempt to create a fictional universe, a magical world.

My pictures also address the grey area between migration and origin. At what point does a migrant become a native? In fact, the only official criterion for belonging to this minority is that, regardless of your ethnic origin, you simply feel that you are a Forest Finn.

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This maker's story

Slash and Burn

Terje Abusdal explores the lives of the Forest Finns, an ethnic minority, peregrinating in the North of Finland. Their original language and religion have disappeared, but their way of life in the dense northern forests is appealing, now more than ever. It attracts new followers, who officially belong to this minority on the sole condition that they feel like it. Abusdal recreates the life of the Forest Finns in an original way, and literally sheds new light on an unknown part of Europe. As a storyteller, he knows that reality is best told with imagination. He uses fiction to document a long gone past.


Maker: Terje Abusdal

Category: Click

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