Young Artist of The Year

Kai Mikkel Balto is Riddu Riđđu’s young artist of the year in 2024. 

Kai Mikkel Balto (24) from Tromsø is appointed Young artist of the year by Riddu Riđđu. Balto is a sami visual artist that wishes to challenge traditional sami handcraft with queer expressions and further explore sami queerness through his artistry. 

He draws inspiration from sami design and it has contributed to his growing interest in sami handcraft. The young artist wishes to explore and develop their artistic expression through being the young artist of the year at Riddu Riđđu. 

Balto has a bachelor's degree in digital art and animation from Høgskolen i Innlandet, and is now finishing a year on Samernas Utbildningscentrum to learn sami handcraft. He wishes to explore his artistry through a mix between visual art and sami handcraft. To mixing the masculine and feminine elements to challenge a more fluid gender expression in sami handcraft is something Balto finds exciting: 

For me it is important to learn the basic traditional sami handcraft before moving on to experimenting and take artistic liberties with the handcraft. It is a big bonus that has been fun to work with sami handcraft as an artform and it has given me room to be creative in other ways than with digital art.” says Kai Mikkel. 

At this year’s festival the audience will get the chance to get to know the young artist of the year. Balto will bring samples of his art to Riddu-sletta and through an artist talk the audience will get a deep dive through his artistic visions. 

The festival director Sajje Solbakk is pleased with the announcement: 

“Kai Mikkel is an exciting and new name in Sápmi. We really fell for both his respect for traditional handcraft and his desire to thematize queerness in Sápmi through his art. Most probably know him from his Instagram-account “daidda.stallu”, but now I’m excited to see what he’ll manage to create through our talent program.” 

Excerpt from the jury’s reasoning: 

The jury sees Kai Mikkel as an innovative and exciting you artist who works within several art forms. Among other things, he works with duodji (sami handcraft), fashion design and digital art. The jury particularly values his interdisciplinary working method, which is not unknown in the Sami field of art. Kai Mikkel has a deep respect for traditional duodji (sami handcraft) and wanted to learn duodji properly through education at Samernas Utbildningscentrum in Jokkmokk, before he started experimenting with and challenge established norms. The jury sees it as an enormous strength that he has a clear awareness of the unwritten rules that exist around duodji (sami handcraft), at the same time as he dares to challenge them. He elegantly combines contemporary and traditional professionalism with the goal of conveying art from the heart. Kai Mikkel Balto wants to challenge the gender norms in society by introducing queer themes in his art and duodji (sami handcraft). Queer indigenous people are honored as the northern people of the year at Riddu Riđđu 2024, the jury therefore sees it as a great bonus to appoint Kai Mikkel Balto this year. 

Riddu Riđđus talent program 

Young artist of the year is Riddu Riđđus talent program that every year announce a young sami artist to present their artistry through Riddu Riđđus festival program and other events during the year where Riddu Riđđu is co-organizers. In addition to receiving a grant of 25.000 Norwegian kroners it also involves a stay at Lásságámmi, the artists’ residence of Nils-Aslak Valkeapää. Kai Mikkel Balto will start his year as young artist of the year during this years’  Riddu Riđđu festival and takes over after Mihkkal Hætta. 

Young artist of the year/Riddu sessions is supported by Talent Norge, Samfunnsløftet og Sametinget.