Finno-Ugric Comics

Sanna Hukkanen

Extending the use of endangered Finno-Ugric languages to the world of comics

Workshops to create comics in Finno-Ugric languages.

Comics drawn in over 15 indigenous Finno-Ugric languages: Karelian, Veps, Udmurt, Komi-Permyak, Komi-Zyryan, Mari (Meadow and Hill), Erzya, Moksha, Khanty, Mansi, Vod, Izhor, Sámi (Kildin, Inari, Skolt, Northern and Southern) and Seto.

Exhibitions implemented and planned in Russia, Estonia and Finland.

The Living Language community art project has introduced comics as a means of supporting endangered Finno-Ugric languages. The project team has held workshops to teach language activists how to draw comics and use them in their work. The resulting comics community brings together journalists, teachers, NGO activists, and cultural workers from libraries and museums who have been drawing comics in their own languages in Udmurtia, Mari El, Komi-Permyak, Komi Republic, Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Region, Mordovia and Leningrad Oblast in Russia, and in Setomaa in Estonia.

Finno-Ugric Comics

Comics artist Sanna Hukkanen organised a comics workshop for Karelian and Veps speaking participants at Periodika publishing house in Petrozavodsk, Russia in 2015. Translator and comics activist Anna Voronkova came to see the workshop, in which Hukkanen and Voronkova came up with the idea of taking the same concept to other Finno-Ugric areas.

The project usually holds at least two workshops in each area: one in countryside, another one in city. In countryside the participants are older than in the cities, and they still speak endangered languages, while as in the cities there are more young students. This gives the comics two different perspectives to the culture and language.

The team has organised workshops for Karelian language speakers in the Republic of Karelia, Tver Oblast (Russia) and Finland, as well as for Sámi speakers in Russia, Finland and Norway.

Language activists all around Finno-Ugric world have adapted comics as a tool of expressing stories about their lives, local history, mythologies and the state of their language. The comics have been made in their own language. Their comics have been displayed extensively in exhibitions, distributed as booklets and postcards and published on social media and in local newspapers. Project partners have continued organising comics workshops and exhibitions in their areas. The project will publish a book and a website showcasing Finno-Ugric comics during 2019. The exhibition will take place for example in Helsinki Comics Festival 2019. Comics widen target audiences of language activism, are inexpensive to make and easy to learn. Some participants have also made comics that can be used as language learning aids.

Comics have turned out to be a great tool in preserving endangered languages because they attract so many target groups, from children to seniors. Comics made by language activists are expressive and powerful!

Sanna Hukkanen, project author