Nils-Aslak Valkeapää

Nils-Aslak Valkeapää, known as Áillohaš in the Sami language (March 23 1943 - November 26 2001) was a Sami writer, musician and artist of Finnish citizenship. He was born in Enontekiö in Lapland province, Finland. He lived most of his life in Käsivarsi, close to the border of Sweden, and also in Skibotn in Norway. Valkeapää was born to a family of traditional reindeer herders, but was trained as a school teacher. His most well known international debut was when he performed at the opening ceremony of the 1994 Winter Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway.


The traditional Sami singing of the joik was important in his music, as well as in his painting and in written works. He was first recognised as an artist for his joik during the 1960s, with his first recording Jojkuja from 1968, which contained modernised joik. Valkeapeää wrote the music to the motion picture Ofelaš, internationally known as The Pathfinder in 1987, which was directed by Nils Gaup.

As a writer, he mainly wrote in Sami with his work translated into other languages and eventually published eight collections of poems. One of his best known is Beaivi áhčážan which has been translated to English, titled The Sun, My Father.

Nils-Aslak Valkeapää died in his sleep on a plane enroute to Espoo, Finland from Japan at the age of 58. The death was a possible complication from a 1996 automobile accident.

Posthumous publication of Nils-Aslak Valkeapää's work includes two poems included on his godson Niko Valkeapää's eponymous debut album. An article published by the Music Information Center Norway stated, "In his trademark, understated style, Niko composes melodies that weave their way into and out of his godfather’s words. Nils Aslak Valkeapää was one of the foremost exponents of Sami art and culture through his long and distinguished career as a poet, composer and artist. Says Niko on his godfather’s influence: 'I can’t deny that Nils Aslak was a role model for me – he was a figure that I would look up to. He has been a source of inspiration and I have included two of his poems on my album to pay homage to him.”

Written works


  • Eanni, eannázan (2001) ISBN 8290625405
  • Girddán, seivvodan (1999) ISBN 8290625340
  • The Sun, My Father (1997) ISBN 8290625324
  • In the shadow of midnight sun. Contemporary Sámi prose and poetry (1997) ISBN 8273743098
  • Jus gaccebiehtár bohkosivccii (1996)
  • Nu guhkkin dat mii lahka: så fjernt det naere (1994) ISBN 8290625200
  • Trekways of the Wind (1994) Univ of Arizona Press, ISBN 8290625219
  • Aurinko, isäni (1992) Ulkomainen Kirjallisuus, ISBN 9788290625158
  • Fadir min, solin (1992)
  • Solen, min far (1990)
  • Vindens veier (1990)
  • Beaivi áhcázan (1988)
  • Vidderna inom mig (1987)
  • Ich bin des windigen Berges Kind (1985)
  • Ruoktu váimmus (1985) (combination of earlier poem collections)
  • Ádjaga silbasuonat (1981)
  • Kevään yöt niin valoisat (1980)
  • Lávllo vizár biellocizás (1976)
  • Gida ijat cuov’gadat (1974)


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