Talk focuses on sacred wood carving in the north

Dated to 1749, this double-headed bowl is one of the older pieces in the Scandinavian Cultural Center’s collection. It is an ale bowl, carved out of a single burl, and would have been passed around at communal events, especially weddings and funerals. The motif of the two horse heads is found in Scandinavia very far back, even before the viking age. Photo courtesy of Scandinavian Cultural Center

Professor Thomas A. DuBois (University of Wisconsin-Madison) will give a talk at Pacific Lutheran University’s Scandinavian Cultural Center at 5 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 12 entitled: “Revisiting the Concept of Continuity in North European Religious wood Carving Traditions.”

In both the study of religion and the study of folklore, scholarly questions of continuity and authenticity have played major roles over the last century and a half. In DuBois’ book “Sacred to the Touch: Nordic and Baltic Religious Wood Carving,” newly published by the University of Washington Press, the author seeks to explore what artists themselves say about questions of religious and artistic continuity. Examining the ideas and art of artists from Finland, Sweden, Sápmi, Lithuania and Norwegian America, DuBois tries to sketch some of the complex ways in which artists themselves describe their relation to earlier artists and earlier belief systems through the wooden sculptures they make, sell and enjoy. The book reflects the practice of folklore studies as a “listening discipline,” and also as one interested in the relations between belief and material culture.

Author Thomas DuBois will talk about Scandinavian wood carving at the Scandinavian Cultural Center Jan. 12. Photo courtesy of Scandinavian Cultural Center

DuBois is a folklorist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He teaches and researches on a range of topics having to do with the way people think about and use the idea of tradition in their lives. Most of his research focuses on Nordic cultures, especially Finnish and Sámi, although he is increasingly interested in the relations of Nordic peoples with populations and ideas coming from elsewhere, particularly the Celtic world. His recent research and service has also included work on the repatriation of traditions among Wisconsin Ojibwe people, particularly at the Lac du Flambeau reservation.

The talk takes place at the Scandinavian Cultural Center, located at 122nd Street South and Park Avenue, Parkland, on the campus of Pacific Lutheran University. The talk is free. A reception with snacks to will follow.

Honoring the Scandinavian heritage of Pacific Lutheran University, the Scandinavian Cultural Center brings together members of the community, students and faculty in an ongoing exploration of what Scandinavian heritage contributes to our understanding of ourselves and the world around us. The cultural center celebrates the unique culture and history of Scandinavia through exhibitions, lectures, musical events, films and celebrations and gatherings. Anyone is welcome to become a member and support the mission of the Scandinavian Cultural Center. Members of the public are also welcome to experience the exhibitions free of charge as well as many of the programs.

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