While this may sound like some sort of neologism meant to convey, say, surprise or delight, it is actually the pronunciation of:


Oh, gee …

Don’t worry if you’re coming up empty on definitions because duodji isn’t an English word–not even close. It actually hails from a remote group of nomadic people called the Sámi who herd reindeer across the far northern reaches of Scandinavia.

Photo of Sami family at spring (Easter) celebration by Mortsan via Wikimedia Commons

Duodji refers to any number of handcrafted items made by the Sámi that are both aesthetically beautiful and useful (clothing, accessories, household items, and tools). Traditionally, duodji crafts were divided into men’s and women’s work. Men used mostly wood and antlers as well as other bones from reindeer when crafting items like this salt cellar:

Photo by Christopher Forster via Wikimedia Commons

Women incorporated leather and fur in elaborately stitched items like these marvelous mittens:

Photo by Thorguds, SaamiBlog.blogspot.com via Wikimedia Commons

Traditional colors incorporated in duodji are red, green, blue and yellow:

Photo by Duodjiinfo via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Christopher Forster via Wikimedia Commons

“Duodji represents cultural continuity with our ancestors,” explains Ellen Marie Jensen, author of We Stopped Forgetting. “There are creative and functional adaptations over time, and the individual duojar has room for individual creative expression. Duodji is both functional and beautiful.”

Doy-gee, I surely agree.

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    I actually got to visit with the Sami in Finland three summers ago on our trip. The tour included a visit to the Sami Museum and an evening of dinner and a sharing of some of their cultural traditions. It was fascinating and the Sami are located in all three Scandinavian countries and neighboring Russia. Their lifestyle above the Arctic Circle is ancient and their handmade clothing in indeed bright and colorful. Such a contrast to the stark and barren landscape. They are also the keepers of the reindeer herds which are still a vital part of their livelihood. Thanks for sharing this today and I am happy to learn a new word that represents the Sami culture!

    • MaryJane says:

      That’s amazing Winnie! You are a lucky woman to travel like you do. And I am remiss in my correspondence. Does it matter that I have a letter to you started?:) Love and hugs your way. (Can you imagine how sad I was when I ate my last orange?) But I had a new muffler around my neck to make up for it.

      • Winnie Nielsen says:

        I was wondering how the latest Knit for Victory was working? You sure have the weather for using it and I am glad that you like it! The oranges are almost gone save the ones way at the top where we can’t reach them. We also discovered several patches of wild orange growing long thorny branches everywhere. We are learning is that this must be cut out of the tree or they will take over and ruin the orange production. Who knew such things? So a pruning we must do pretty soon before the new blossoms set for next year. We are actually have a chilly sweater weather day today! Perfect for knitting and and reading this afternoon. I have some new books begging to be opened.

  2. As a lover of reindeer I have always been fascinated by the Sami culture as well.Their costumes indeed bring to mind elfs with the bright colors and their red boots with turned up toes.

  3. Krista says:

    This is such a fascinating group of people. I love the bright colors that they use and the beautiful craft items they make. This would be such a fun place to visit. Winnie, it sounds like you learned so much on your trip there. Lucky you! Now I have a new word to add to my vocabulary. I’ll remember to refer to duodji next time I am crafting!

  4. Karlyne says:

    “Duodji” – first I have to learn to spell it, and then I pronounce it – “doy-gee”. Love the concept!

  5. Bonnie ellis says:

    Our Scandanavian traditions are seep in Minnesota. There are several herds here. Great picture of their colorful costumes.

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