Finnskogen – directly translated as The Forest of the Finns – is a large, contiguous forest belt along the Norwegian-Swedish border, where farming families from Finland settled in the early 1600s. The immigrants – called Forest Finns – were slash-and-burn farmers. This ancient agricultural method yielded bountiful crops but required large areas of land as the soil was quickly exhausted. Population growth eventually led to a scarcity of resources in their native Finland and, fuelled by famine and war, forced a wave of migration in search for new territories.
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; 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, in a time when the 17th century way of life is long gone, and their language is no longer spoken.
Terje Abusdal is a visual storyteller from Norway working on independent projects in the intersection between fact and fiction. In 2017, his story on the Forest Finns – Slash & Burn – won the Leica Oskar Barnack Award and the Nordic Dummy Award. Two years prior he published his first photographic book Radius 500 Metres on Journal. His work was recently exhibited at Jaipur Photo Festival in India, Fotogalleriet in Oslo and FOTODOK in Utrecht. Abusdal lives in Oslo.