Emilie Demant Hatt (1873-1958) was a Danish artist and self-trained ethnographer who lived among the Sami of Swedish Lapland in the first two decades of the twentieth century. She collaborated with the Sami hunter, writer, and artist Johan Turi to create his book, An Account of the Lapps [Muitalus sámiid birra] in 1910. She published two memorable books of her own, With the Lapps in the High Mountains [Med lapperne i højfjeldet] in 1913 and By the Fire [Ved ilden] in 1922. In 2002 her forgotten memoir about her youthful relationship with the composer Carl Nielsen was published in Denmark. From the 1930s to her death, Demant Hatt focused mainly on painting and created a remarkable body of art, with motifs from Lapland, many of which are now in the Nordiska Museet in Stockholm.
I am a Swedish-Irish-American writer and translator who lives on the far west coast of Washington State in North America. I first encountered the names of Emilie Demant Hatt and Johan Turi when I was in Northern Scandinavia during the winter of 2001-2, writing travel essays that later became the book The Palace of the Snow Queen: Winter Travels in Lapland. In the years since I found myself more and more drawn to researching and writing about Demant Hatt’s ethnography and art. For more about me and my other books and projects, take a look at my website, or my blog about Scandinavia, Lapponia.
Here on this site you’ll find information about Emilie Demant Hatt’s life, art, and ethnography among the Sami, as well as background on Carl Nielsen and his musical career. In addition to essays I’ve written on Demant Hatt, I’ve also translated With the Lapps in the High Mountains and have recently completed two novels about her early years, inspired by her memoir. Fossil Island and its sequel The Former World will be available September 1 2015, in print and as e-books. I’m currently in the midst of writing a book about her work with Johan Turi and her ethnographic fieldwork in Sápmi, the Sami name for their homeland.