Kvääniteatteri / English

A continuing artistic dialogue about the future of the Kven language.

Table of contents:

Om Kvääniteatteri
Picture: Geli Goldmann

Table of contents:


Kvääniteatteri is being established
Kvääniteatteri is currently being established in conjunction with the Halti project in Nordreisa. The theatre is based in North Troms, but we will take our activities out to our audiences – into core Kven areas and regional, national and international settings. We aim to achieve national status as a minority theatre for the entire Kven population.

Cultural actors from North Troms have been working on establishing the Kven Theatre since June 2018. Itu teatteriforeeninki will be the formal owner of the establishment project until Kvääniteatteri has been incorporated as a separate company.

The Establishment Project started in January 2020 and is financed by Troms County Council, Troms and Finnmark County Council, Nordreisa Municipal Council, the Arts Council Norway, the Norwegian Department of Culture and the Bank of Northern Norway.

The main focus of the establishment project is to found a non-profit company – a Kven theatre that crosses linguistic boundaries and adopts an international approach to interdisciplinary collaboration, artistic processes, identity development and communication methods. We aim to be in normal operation from 1 January 2023.

General strategy

The Kven Theatre aspires to develop the Kven culture through the art of theatre, while developing the art of theatre through the Kven culture.

The Kven Theatre aims to creatively promote and represent Kven performing arts, while straddling the divide between tradition and innovation, reaching out to the people both nationally and internationally. By raising the profile of Kven voices, we will create entertainment, interest and debate – helping to conserve the language, build identity and culture and expose the challenges that the Kven people and all minority peoples collectively face.

Focus areas for Kvääniteatteri
In addition to establishing Kvääniteatteri as an institution, we are also seeking external funding for content production, which will be rolled out in four priority areas:

  • Ystävät (friends) is our investment in CHILDREN. This is children’s theatre in satellite form, where professional producers go out to core Kven areas and put on performances together with children and young people.
  • Yhessä (together) is our AMATEUR initiative. This has already been established through Kyläpeli, the annual village play in Nordreisa that was staged for the first time in 2017.
  • Ympäri (around) is described in more detail under the menu item TOURING. These are self-produced theatre performances that tour nationally and internationally.
  • Yhtheys (community) provides ARENA building, networking and talent development for Kven artists.

Kvääniteatteri’s main target group
The theatre’s main target groups are children, young people and adults in Kven areas and communities in Norway.The theatre will disseminate Kven artistic expression, promote Kven language and culture, as well as explore identity, minority challenges and democracy regionally, nationally and internationally.

Strategic collaboration is important for the Kven Theatre
One of Kvääniteatteri’s principles is to seek out collaborations at the artistic, linguistic and developmental level, both nationally and with Kven communities, in the wider Cape of the North region, and, where relevant, with minority players internationally.

Kvääniteatteri must be relevant
Kvääniteatteri has set demanding quality goals whose aim is to challenge, involve, inspire and make us relevant to both the Kven population and the public in general.

Culture and history

The Kvens are a Norwegian minority group. Through its activities, Kvääniteatteri aims to promote knowledge about the Kvens, and Kven culture and history.

The Kvens have been in northern Norway for centuries
The Kvens, or Norwegian-Finns as they are also known, are descendants of people who migrated to northern Norway from the Tornedal area before the current national boundaries were drawn. The Kvens are mentioned in Viking writings from the ninth century. We do not know when the Kvens first came to northern Norway, but from the 17th and early 18th centuries until the start of the 20th century, they settled along the coast in the north, in particular in Nord-Troms and Finnmark.

The Kvens enjoy national minority status in Norway
The Kven people were recognised as a national minority along with the Jews, Forest Finns, Roma, and Romani people/Taters in 1998, when Norway ratified the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. Before their merger, both Troms and Finnmark county councils adopted separate strategy and action plans for the preservation of the Kven language and culture, with specific points relating to Kven theatre. The government, through the Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation, has prepared a Targeted Plan for Promotion of the Kven Language. The Norwegian Storting has established a Commission to investigate the Norwegianisation policy and past injustices committed against the Sámi and Kvens. The Commission will submit a report in autumn 2022.

One of the Kväänitteatteri’s objectives is to revitalise Kven cultural life
Storytelling, song and music remain a vibrant and important part of Kven culture, despite the major challenges caused by the Norwegianisation policy. Kven theatre and performing arts are expanding and putting on an increasing number of professional theatre and dance productions – often closely intertwined with Kven song and music traditions, as well as hymn-singing. However, many important hurdles lie ahead on the road to establishing a fully-fledged Kven cultural life. Kvääniteatteri will play a crucial role in preserving the Kvens’ intangible cultural heritage, revitalising the Kven language and nurturing a new dawn for Kven culture. This will be achieved through high levels of professionalism and quality.

Political support for the Kvens and Kvääniteatteri
In establishing this project, Troms County Council (2019), Nordreisa Municipal Council (2019) and Troms and Finnmark County Council (2020–2022) have chosen to leverage their role as community developers to provide political support and take financial responsibility for the establishment of the Kven Theatre – as an important measure to amplify the Kven minority’s voice in Norwegian society.

Who are the Kvens?
Few statistics are available on the current Kven population. In a health survey conducted by the Arctic University of Norway in 1987–1988, around 25 per cent of the population in Finnmark and Nord-Troms stated that they are of Kven/Finnish origin. Many more Kvens live outside the traditional core areas. Researchers believe that at a conservative estimate there are at least 50,000 Kvens living in Norway today (Lane 2011).

Active Kven communities are dispersed from north to south. Throughout Norway, Kvens of all ages, from children and young people to pensioners, are engaged in the Kven cause and work to promote Kven culture, language and history.

Troms County Council’s action plan puts the number of Kvens in Norway at between 10,000 and 15,000, many of whom live in the core areas of Troms and Finnmark. However, Kvens live in all parts of Norway. Ruijan Kveeniliitto – the Norwegian Kven Organisation – is active throughout the country, and has local associations in Troms and Finnmark, as well as in eastern and south-west Norway and Trøndelag.

Source: The Norwegian Kven Organisation

The board

Kvääniteatteri is led by a Board of Directors. The theatre director is also the artistic director and is responsible for programming and day-to-day management of the institution.

Kvääniteatteri is in the process of being established. Between 2020 and 2022, we will work to create a Kven Theatre that crosses linguistic and national boundaries with regard to interdisciplinary collaboration, artistic processes, identity development and communication methods. We aim to start normal operations from 1 January 2023.

Interim board
Torbjørn Svane Naimak 
Hilja Lisa Huru 
Tove Raappana Reibo 

Theatre director 
Frank Jørstad 

Project manager 
Inger Birkelund

Artistic Council
Frank Jørstad
Erling Fredriksson
Ida Løken Valkeapää 

Performing artists

Kvääniteatteri hires Kven performing artists to contribute to various artistic productions. You can see a list of contributing artists here.

Through its theatre productions, Kvääniteatteri aims to establish a physical arena for Kven performing artists. When we start ordinary operations, we will engage dramatic artists for longer periods, generally for two to three years. As our core staff, the engaged actors will be given responsibility for our artistic initiatives together with the theatre director. We will also hire artists for shorter engagements for special productions.

Frank Jørstad, director
Production: Näkymätön kansa – Det usynlige folket

Ivar Beddari, actor/musician
Production: Näkymätön kansa – Det usynlige folket

Ørjan Steinsvik, actor
Productions: Näkymätön kansa – Det usynlige folket/Ystävät/Kyläpeli

Sara Maria Lindback, actor
Productions: Näkymätön kansa – Det usynlige folket/Ystävät

Astrid Serine Hoel, actor/dancer
Productions: Näkymätön kansa – Det usynlige folket/Ystävät/Pohjoinen – Davvi – Norr

Ida Løken Valkeapää, director
Productions: Pohjoinen – Davvi – Norr

Jenny Maria Svensson, dramatist
Production: Pohjoinen – Davvi – Norr


Kvääniteatteri collaborates with important influencers of Kven culture. We also intend to collaborate with the municipalities in North Troms.

One of Kvääniteatteri’s principles is to seek out collaborations at the artistic, linguistic and developmental level, both nationally and with Kven resource pools, in the wider Cape of the North region, and, where relevant, with minority players internationally.

The interim board has examined various models for municipal collaboration. A solution was presented to North Troms Regional Council in March 2020. At this meeting, the leaders of the six North Troms municipalities adopted a declaration of support for Kvääniteatteri, and welcomed a formal collaboration model under which member municipalities from core Kven areas will enter into mutually binding collaborations with Kvääniteatteri on activities and operational funding.

Kvääniteatteri has been discussing collaboration with Kven institutions, cultural and educational institutions and the theatre industry since as long ago as 2018. These talks have resulted in various memoranda of understanding on collaboration in areas of mutual interest.

Signed collaboration agreements:

  • The Tornedal Theatre, April 2020
  • UiT The Arctic University of Norway, June 2020
  • Hålogaland Theatre, January 2021
  • North Troms Museum, April 2021
  • Vadsø Museum – Ruija Kvenmuseum, April 2020
  • The Kven Institute, April 2021
  • Center of Northern People, April 2021
  • Kvænangen Language Center, April 2021
  • Porsanger Kven Language Center, May 2021
  • Halti Kven Culture Center, August 2021
  • Dramatikkens hus, August 2021
  • Kven Language Center Vadsø, September 2021