Today’s featured post is by G. Scott MacLeod, who has successfully embodied the mission of the Northern Women Arts Collaborative by combining both scientific research and art. Based on an exhibit and research project carried out at the National Museum of Iceland, Scott has created a film and graphic novel about the life of a Viking Woman in Iceland. For details on the research behind this film see the page on this site about the Lady in Blue: The Lady in Blue-Bláklædda Konan: the textiles. National Museum of Iceland.
By G. Scott MacLeod
Film/Video installation & graphic novel by Writer, Producer & Director Scott MacLeod
A collaboration with The National Film Board of Canada and MacLeod 9 Productions
Film Trailer: https://vimeo.com/297574547
Brief Project Description: A short live action/animated three act video and graphic novel project titled, The Indigo Iona Saga and the Settlement of Iceland. The story is an historic fiction, which is set in the Viking era. Each of the three acts in the film will address three different themes: Act I, Queen Hertha and farmers leaving Norway under the oppressive King Harald Fairhair (emigration), Act II, Iona taken as a slave in the Norse colonies of Orkney, Scotland (slavery) and Act III, settling Iceland and Solveig who the first generation of Icelanders (freedom). I concluded the saga with two remaining characters, a RUV TV presenters voice interviewing an archaeologist about a Viking woman’s skeletal remains and grave goods which were found at Ketilsstaðir in the East of Iceland in 1938 and the 2015 exhibition, Bundled-up in Blue – The Re-Investigation of a Viking Grave.
Synopsis: The Indigo Iona Saga and the Settlement of Iceland is a story of emigration, slavery, freedom, women and their settlement of Iceland. The ambitious Viking Queen Hertha Ljótólfsdóttir leaves Norway with her fleet to the Norse colonies of Shetland and Orkney Islands to take Celtic slaves to help claim and settle land in Iceland away from the battling Norwegian Kings. On Queen Hertha’s journey she confronts the warloard Ketill, King of the Isles, and discovers his beautiful slave girl, Iona. Both will influence the outcome of Hertha’s settlement plans in Iceland.
Narration: The actresses will narrate the story in the Norse skáldic storytelling tradition, as was done in the orignal Icelandic Sagas.
Music: The soundtrack will be a combination of original compositions and interpretations of traditional period Norse and Celtic music from singers Stina Ágústsdóttir and from recordings of Ishbel MacAskill.
Rational: I am particularly interested in the the cross-cultural links between my various heritages from Norway, Ireland and Scotland and how they connect to the settlement period of Iceland. I feel committed to and passionate about The Indigo Iona Saga and the Settlement of Iceland, because the work is relevant to our times. Women continue to be mariginalized in society in a variety of ways, including being forced to emigrate as a result of war, religious differences, famine and environmental disasters. As a filmmaker and artist, I am interested in learning more about my female ancestors via the sagas, history, archaeology and migration patterns of the Vikings, in order to better understand their lived experiences and history. Studying and sharing their stories is an opportunity to increase awareness of the damaging impacts of war, exile, slavery, religious persecution, and famine, as well as the contributions these women made to the greater world narrative of women as providers and leaders in society.
Inspiration: During my 2017 and 2018 SIM Residency in Reykjavik I became inspired to create this new project, when I discovered that my Hebridean Scottish ancestors have a connection through the genetic disposition of the Icelander women. At the National Museum of Iceland their research states that 62% of Icelandic women have Scottish and Irish DNA, whereas Icelandic men have 80% Scandinavian DNA. This confirms that, during the settlement period of Iceland, Norse men were stopping off in the Norse colonies of Scotland and Ireland and taking women for the promise of a new life in Iceland, either by marriage or more likely by force as slaves.
This project focusses on the women being taken from Scotland to Iceland during the settlement period. This work and lead character Iona was created after seeing the Bundled-up in Blue exhibition, which was exhibited at the National Museum of Iceland from 2015 – 2017. The exhibition included a Viking woman’s skeletal remains and grave goods which were found at Ketilsstaðir in the East of Iceland in 1938. The Viking woman’s grave and it contents were reopened in the 2014 and studied by my film consultants on the project, Research Associate at Brown University Dr. Michèle Hayeur Smith and Deputy Director and Chief Curator Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology Brown University Dr. Kevin P. Smith. With other colleagues and the latest technology, they yielded illuminating information on the emigration of women to Iceland. By DNA testing the human remains, grave goods, which illustrated the wide Viking trade routes. Researchers were also able to ascertain data on the woman’s possible origins and when she died in Iceland. These remarkable results and grave goods were made available to the public at the museum exhibition and in a publication Bundled-up in Blue – The Re-Investigation of a Viking Grave in 2015.
The Graphic Novel: I will rework and re-purpose my animation drawings from the film into a graphic novel of the same title as the installation. This component offers the opportunity to exhibit the graphic novel and drawings in the exhibition space along with the installation. The drawings will be hung on the gallery walls at eye level in sequence, illustrating the timeline and animation process. TagTeam Studio Jessica Charbonneau will do the graphic design. The graphic novel is also a good format to build interest with the youth populations in addition to older audiences who do not frequent film festivals but rather libraries, galleries, museums and cultural centres.
Public screenings: The film version will be sent to festivals in Canada, the USA and Europe but I will target festivals in Norway, Scotland and Iceland populations that share this story. As The Indigo Iona Saga story takes place in Norway, Scotland and Iceland I will initially target these countries, enabling me to share this work and build interest to these different countries and cultures. As the themes addressed in the film installation are universal, it will also be a story that may be shared globally. Sharing this project with the greater public is an opportunity to increase awareness of the damaging impacts of war, exile, slavery, religious persecution, and famine, as well as the contributions these women made to the greater world narrative of women as leaders in society.
MacLeod 9 Productions, 1-2319 Hampton Ave. Montreal, QC H4A 2K5
Tel: 514 487 8766
All images are copyrighted G. Scott MacLeod.