Premiére date27 Oct. 1993
Produced bySampo Teater, Totalteatret
Based onJessica by Maria Campbell, Linda Griffiths
ExpressionsDrama, Theatre
Running period27 Oct. 1993  
Duration2h 30 min

About Jessica

Jessica (1993) was a project in collaboration between Sampo Teater and Totalteatret.

Jessica raised issues regarding colonisation of native peoples and native populations' situations in modern society. Sampo Teater and Totalteatret marked the UN Year of Indigenous Peoples and the ten year anniversaries of both companies with Jessica. The performance November 7 1993 opened a conference on indigenous people in Tromsø.

Jessica is half Caucasian and half Native American. She is in contact with the old native culture's spirits as well as the modern Western world.

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Press review

Ellen Pollestad (29.10.1993). Review called Splittet "Jessica" (literally: Divided Jessica). Nordlys [Tromsø], page 19:

"Tor-Bjørn Gundersen and Pia Pedersen have created a comprehensive, exciting frame surrounding the performance. With simple and eclectic effects - a slanting platform with a starry ceiling, animal masks and chains - a visual frame rooming poetry as well as drama is created. Music and light efficiently support the frame, giving a successful, coherent character to the performance."

Anita Husunm Nilsen (07.12.1993). Review called Nordlys i mørket (literally: Northern lights in the dark). Klassekampen [Oslo]:

"I put it in capital letters: I have had my greatest theatre experience in a long time. [...] The sum of the effects in this performance managed, for my part, the rare thing of speaking to mind, heart and stomach. I can only wish happiness over Sampo Teater and Totalteatret for their ten year anniversaries. May they live long!"

IdaLou Larsen (08.12.1993). Review called Litt skuffende fra Tromsø (literally: A bit disappointing from Tromsø). Nationen [Oslo]:

"Even though the production has its weaknesses as drama and as a performance, it still was a rewarding experience. Totalteatret and Sampo Teater both have the kind of intensity and strength in acting that creates valuable theatre moments."

Steinar Wiik (7.-9.12.1993). Review called Mellom to verdener (literally: Between two worlds). Morgenbladet [Oslo]:

"This jubilee commemoration shows as clearly as possible that Sampo Teater and Totalteatret are remaining very vital.

Helge Matland (29.10.1993). Review called Ei massiv jubileumsforestilling (literally: A massive jubilee performance). Tromsø [Tromsø]:

"What Totalteatret and Sampo Teater have staged is a colossus of a jubilee performance. Through two and a half hour filled with text, mythical material and physical action a process of recognition is revealed, one that can be important to more than the half Indian Jessica, the main character of the play. If the main impression is positive, the opening night on Wednesday also revealed clear weaknesses in the performance."

More about Jessica

In the production program for Jessica professor Per Mathiesen wrote the following text:

"After experiencing the scenic presentation of Jessica's turbulent existence, some may mean that they have seen the prototype for the rootless, modern human. But if we think again this is a misleading image yet the same. The heated, roaming traits of her person is rather an expression of her experience in having diverse roots. Each apart and entangled they tie her to the different horizons of experience coming from her life story.

In a modern language one would rather than call Jessica rootless say that she carries many identities side by side. None of these identities attach her strongly enough to one single human community to feel secure enough to place herself independently in any social room.

The doubt and suffering of her life one can recognise from newspaper headlines in societies suffering from colonisation.

After the conquest of Northern America, Australia and New Zealand the colonists didn't just rob the resources of the indigenous peoples, they also degraded their cultures. The colonists and their successors have had a strong wish to reshape indigenous peoples to fit their own image. From being safe havens to grow up in, the societies of indigenous populations have often become conflicted societies where individuals don't know who and what they are, where they come from or where they should go. Being colonised has as a rule meant to have one's belonging to one's own society and values lessened, while remaining uninitiated to the superior-held living of the carriers of state.

The indigenous population of Alaska, whom one may think of as daring hunters for fur turns out to have an extreme high suicide ratio and alcohol abuse is rampant. Anthropological studies of Inuit people and Native Americans can confirm the newspaper headlines. The image long seemed to be much the same in Australia, among the Aborigines. However, an investigative commission has found that what seems to be a higher ratio of prison suicides often is caused by regular murdering of prisoners. A disproportionate high frequency of jailing New Zealand Maoris and social poverty in the Native American reservations are sombre traits in the picture of some indigenous populations' situation in the modern world.

Are such conditions self-inflicted? Questions like these we can deny without further ado. The reality is that even though the normal condition of depravation remains in the daily life of some indigenous peoples, it still happens that the political rights of the individual indigenous people - not least after pressure from spokespeople for the populations and in recognizing the colonist responsibility for the deprivation. However this development has in part sprung out from trials and judicial, heavy documents. Thus the discussion about this important source of rights have had more character of being an abstract debate about legal codes and the options to change them more than tangible efforts registered in the daily lives of people. This is also how the political gain of this development is understood by the indigenous peoples and by the general public.

There may be reason to notice the fact that several organisations working for rights have sprung out from legal trials. There is likely a connection between this and that the courts in their lines of thinking seek what one calls general justice. By such they can easier observe how disregarding the laws and rules of the indigenous peoples by the time of the colonisation have had unreasonable consequences for their general rights and their rights to their original land.

In elected/legislative assemblies, on the other hand, the thinking is so strongly tied by the parties' catering to national client/voter groups the case of indigenous people often fall outside their agenda.

An example of intervention by courts is New Zealand. Here the courts have wanted to correct the systematic exclusion of the Maori people from the power centres. Based on The Treaty of Waitangi from 1840 the Supreme Court has settled the principle that the relationship between the government and the Maoris is to be perceived as a "partnership". This means that both parties are expected to act towards one another with the utmost care. The government went against this view, but later the principle has been confirmed. Problems however do appear when the political content in such a phrase is to be ratified through political processes, but the partnership idea will as a principle secure the Maoris a seat at the negotiation table.

The situation for the Sami indigenous people in Norway in many ways still is undecided. The Sami parliament president Ole Henrik Magga has publically complained that the transfer of power to the Sami parliament moves too slow and that there are still too few important issues under its jurisdiction. But hardest of all, naturally, is the issue of transferring legislative powers from the Norwegian parliament to the Sami parliament. Here is the serious test of Norway's responsibility towards the indigenous people. This will be a decision process where the constitutional place of the Sami people in negotiations will be most uncertain – if there will even be a decision process.

The unease of the Sami parliament president is in particular understandable, considering that the Western peoples seem to eye the "wild landscapes" of the Northern areas. One seems to think that there are options for recreation for all, and options to realise restrictive natural preservation, but not in such a way it will also restrict the West's continued waste of resources in other regions. But as Ole Henrik Magga says, these steppe areas aren't "wild" and unused. They are part of the fundament of sustainability for the indigenous peoples of the north, where they live and what they life of, and a central element in their cultural make-up.

In 1992 many were concerned with remembering the 500th anniversary for Columbus' colonisation journeys. This year is the UN Year of Indigenous Peoples and we want to commemorate it. As such there are massive differences between the occasions people support. Jessica, on the other hand, turns to both events; she is a child of the original idea of colonisation as well as an expression of the indigenous peoples' situation today. This is why she speaks to all. Probably the insight she provides to each of us about "us" is the most important. It can now be said to be indisputable - if it hasn't always been - that any attempt at suppressing "others" and shaping "others" in one's own image is doomed to fail for both parties. For whoever carries the unease of Jessica it should be easier to identify the conditions generating the unease."

Thanks to: Liv Henriksen, Tromsø Byspill, the cultural centre Tromsdalen Kulturhus, Hålogaland Theatre, Klipperiet.

Supported by: Nordic Culture Fund, The Audio Visual Fund, The Fund for Performing Artists, the county of Troms, the art council of Northern Norway, the Nordic Council of Ministers' committee for theatre and dance and the job centre of Tromsø.


Sampo Teater's private archive. Donated by Anitta Suikkari, 15.05.2009