Deep in the woods in Dalarna, Sweden, scattered among stumps and newer-growth trees stand centuries-old Scotch pines – thick, gnarled, and covered with carvings. The messages inscribed in their trunks are from female shepherds who, from the 17th to the early 20th centuries, would leave their villages to live and work together on the fäbod (summer farm) and lead their families’ cattle out to graze. While in the pastures, these young women, many of them teenagers, carved the date, their initials, and notes to each other, leaving the trunks scrawled with a kind of teenage freneticism, a coded language, an assertion of their existence: HERE WE DRAW OUR NAMES. The artist Elina Birkehag went into the forest with her camera and searched for the trees. She photographed the marks the young women had left in the bark. Her book connects us with the female shepherds and enables us to “read” the trees.
With contributions by Amelia Groom & M. Ty, Quinn Latimer, Meg Miller, Jungmyung Lee, Matilda Kenttä & Linnea Rutz, and Jennie Tiderman Österberg.