Niva to Nenets

Niva to Nenets is an interactive road-movie that questions gift-giving and other possible pitfalls along the proverbial road to decolonization. A road-trip from Belgium to the Nenets people in Arctic Russia facilitated conditions for interesting circumstances and conversations. My wish to support the Nenets by giving them my car is the premise of this documentary story and gave cause to many valuable discussions. As a reindeer herding people in the north-west of Russia, the Nenets struggle from the side effects of accelerated climate change, rapid modernization, and the impacts of oil- and gas exploration on their herding grounds. The idea of giving them an old car, despite the fact that the usefulness of this gift was confirmed by the Nenets organization Yasavey, gave entrance to the sharing of many opinions, concerns and other responses. These responses are recorded with GoPro-camera’s, and, combined with recordings of the travel, form the content of an experimental road-movie. Situations and conversations on the road were recorded simultaneously from different view angles, while participants drove certain parts of the long trip with me.

An interactive story is composed out of over 350 hours of film footage (2,37 TB), in which people can switch viewpoints and storylines. Six intertwined storylines function as trails throughout a various collection of scenes that expose the plurality of the (recorded) reality. This narrative structure balances between coherent storytelling and two basic conditions of decolonization: freedom of opinion and freedom of action. Viewers can explore the collection of scenes for five minutes, or up to five hours.

Niva to Nenets can be watched online at and in an exhibition setting.

The Nenets support organisation Yasavey collaborated in this project. Niva to Nenets is financially supported by Kunstendecreet, Fund Roger Dillemans, and the Dutch Embassy in Moscow.