The Norwegian farm culture continues to play a role in contemporary Norwegian culture. In the 19th century, it inspired a strong romantic nationalistic movement, which is still visible in the Norwegian language and media. Norwegian culture blossomed with nationalist efforts to achieve an independent identity in the areas of literature, art and music. This continues today in the performing arts and as a result of government support for exhibitions, cultural projects and artwork.
Norway has been a progressive country, which has adopted legislation and policies to support women's rights, minority rights, and LGBT rights. As early as 1884, 171 of the leading figures, among them five Prime Ministers for the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party, co-founded the Norwegian Association for Women's Rights. They successfully campaigned for women's right to education, women's suffrage, the right to work and other gender equality policies. From the 1970s, gender equality also came high on the state agenda with the establishment of a public body to promote gender equality, which evolved into the Gender Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud. Civil society organisations also continue to play an important role, and the women's rights organisations are today organised in the Norwegian Women's Lobby umbrella organisation.
In 1990 the Norwegian constitution was amended to grant absolute primogeniture to the Norwegian throne, meaning that the eldest child, regardless of gender, takes precedence in the line of succession. As it was not retroactive, the current successor to the throne is the eldest son of the King, rather than his eldest child. The Norwegian constitution Article 6 states that "For those born before the year 1990 it shall...be the case that a male shall take precedence over a female."
The Sami people have for centuries been the subject of discrimination and abuse by the dominant cultures in Scandinavia and Russia, those countries claiming possession of Sami lands. The Sami people have never been a single community in a single region of Lapland. Norway has been greatly criticised by the international community for the politics of Norwegianization of and discrimination against the indigenous population of the country. Nevertheless, Norway was, in 1990, the first country to recognise ILO-convention 169 on indigenous people recommended by the UN.
In regard to LGBT rights, Norway was the first country in the world to enact an anti-discrimination law protecting the rights of gays and lesbians. In 1993 Norway became the second country to legalise civil union partnerships for same-sex couples, and on 1 January 2009 Norway became the sixth country to grant full marriage equality to same-sex couples. As a promoter of human rights, Norway has held the annual Oslo Freedom Forum conference, a gathering described by The Economist as "on its way to becoming a human-rights equivalent of the Davos economic forum."
Separation of church and state happened significantly later in Norway than in most of Europe and is not yet complete. In 2012, the Norwegian parliament voted to grant the Church of Norway greater autonomy, a decision which was confirmed in a constitutional amendment on 21 May 2012. Until 2012 parliamentary officials were required to be members of the Lutheran Church and at least half of all ministers had to be a member of the Christian State Church. As the Church of Norway is the state church, its clergy are state employees, and the central and regional church administrations are part of the state administration. The members of the Royal family are required to be members of the Lutheran church.
The Norwegian cinema has received international recognition. The documentary film Kon-Tiki(1950) of the expedition won an American Oscar Academy Award. In 1959, Arne Skouen's Nine Lives was nominated, but failed to win. Another notable film is Flåklypa Grand Prix (English: Pinchcliffe Grand Prix), an animated feature film directed by Ivo Caprino. The film was released in 1975 and is based on characters from Norwegian cartoonist Kjell Aukrust. It is the most widely seen Norwegian film of all time.
Nils Gaup's Pathfinder (1987), the story of the Sami, was nominated for an Oscar. Berit Nesheim's The Other Side of Sunday was nominated for an Oscar in 1997.
Since the 1990s, the film industry has thrived, producing up to 20 feature films each year. Particular successes were Kristin Lavransdatter, based on a novel by a Nobel Prize winner; The Telegraphist and Gurin with the Foxtail. Knut Erik Jensen was among the more successful new directors, together with Erik Skjoldbjærg, who is remembered for Insomnia.
The country has also been used as filming location for several Hollywood and other international productions, including The Empire Strikes Back (1980), for which the producers used Hardangerjøkulen glacier as a filming location for scenes of the ice planet Hoth. It included a memorable battle in the snow. The films Die Another Day, The Golden Compass, Spies Like Us and Heroes of Telemark, as well as the TV series Lilyhammer and Vikings also had scenes set in Norway. A short film, The Spirit of Norway was featured at Maelstrom at NorwayPavilion at Epcot located within Walt Disney World Resort in Florida in the United States. The attraction and the film ceased their operations on 5 October 2014.
The classical music of the romantic composers Edvard Grieg, Rikard Nordraak and Johan Svendsen is internationally known as is the modern music of Arne Nordheim. Norway's classical performers include Leif Ove Andsnes, one of the world's more famous pianists; Truls Mørk, an outstanding cellist; and the great Wagnerian soprano Kirsten Flagstad.
Norwegian black metal has been an influence in world music since the late 20th century. Since the 1990s, Norway's export of black metal, a lo-fi, dark and raw form of heavy metal, has been developed by such bands as Emperor, Darkthrone, Gorgoroth, Mayhem, Burzum, and Immortal. More recently bands such as Enslaved, Kvelertak, Dimmu Borgir and Satyricon have evolved the genre into the present day while still garnering worldwide fans. Controversial events associated with the black metal movement in the early 1990s included several church burningsand two prominent murder cases.
The jazz scene in Norway is thriving. Jan Garbarek, Terje Rypdal, Mari Boine, Arild Andersen, and Bugge Wesseltoft are internationally recognised while Paal Nilssen-Love, Supersilent, Jaga Jazzist and Wibutee are becoming world-class artists of the younger generation.
Norway has a strong folk music tradition which remains popular to this day. Among the most prominent folk musicians are Hardanger fiddlers Andrea Een, Olav Jørgen Hegge and Annbjørg Lien, and the vocalists Agnes Buen Garnås, Kirsten Bråten Berg and Odd Nordstoga.
Other internationally recognised bands are A-ha, Röyksopp, Ylvis and Maria Mena. A-ha initially rose to global fame during the mid-1980s. In the 1990s and 2000s the group maintained its popularity domestically, and has remained successful outside Norway, especially in Germany, Switzerland, France and Brazil.
In recent years, various Norwegian songwriters and production teams have contributed to the music of other international artists. The Norwegian production team Stargate has produced songs for Rihanna, Beyoncé, Shakira, Jennifer Lopez and Lionel Richie, among others. Espen Lind has written and produced songs for Beyoncé, Lionel Richie and Leona Lewis, among others. Lene Marlin has written songs for Rihanna and Lovebugs.
Norway enjoys many music festivals throughout the year, all over the country. Norway is the host of one of the world's biggest extreme sport festivals with music, Ekstremsportveko—a festival held annually in Voss. Oslo is the host of many festivals, such as Øyafestivalen and by:Larm. Oslo used to have a summer parade similar to the German Love Parade. In 1992 the city of Oslo wanted to adopt the French music festival Fête de la Musique. Fredrik Carl Størmer established the festival. Even in its first year, "Musikkens Dag" gathered thousands of people and artists in the streets of Oslo. "Musikkens Dag" is now renamed Musikkfest Oslo.
With expansive forests, Norway has long had a tradition of building in wood. Many of today's most interesting new buildings are made of wood, reflecting the strong appeal that this material continues to hold for Norwegian designers and builders.
With Norway's conversion to Christianity some 1,000 years ago, churches were built. Stonework architecture was introduced from Europe for the most important structures, beginning with the construction of Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim. In the early Middle Ages, wooden stave churches were constructed throughout Norway. Some of them have survived; they represent Norway's most unusual contribution to architectural history. A fine example, Urnes Stave Church in inner Sognefjord, is on UNESCO's World Heritage List. Another notable example of wooden architecture is the buildings at Bryggen Wharf in Bergen, also on the list for World Cultural Heritage sites, consisting of a row of tall, narrow wooden structures along the quayside.
In the 17th century, under the Danish monarchy, cities and villages such as Kongsberg and Røros were established. The city had a church built in the Baroque style. Traditional wooden buildings that were constructed in Røros have survived.
After Norway's union with Denmark was dissolved in 1814, Oslo became the capital. The architect Christian H. Grosch designed the earliest parts of the University of Oslo, the Oslo Stock Exchange, and many other buildings and churches constructed in that early national period.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the city of Ålesundwas rebuilt in the Art Nouveau style, influenced by styles of France. The 1930s, when functionalism dominated, became a strong period for Norwegian architecture. It is only since the late 20th century that Norwegian architects have achieved international renown. One of the most striking modern buildings in Norway is the Sami Parliament in Kárášjohka, designed by Stein Halvorson and Christian Sundby. Its debating chamber, in timber, is an abstract version of a lavvo, the traditional tent used by the nomadic Sami people.
For an extended period, the Norwegian art scene was dominated by artwork from Germany and Holland as well as by the influence of Copenhagen. It was in the 19th century that a truly Norwegian era began, first with portraits, later with impressive landscapes. Johan Christian Dahl (1788–1857), originally from the Dresden school, eventually returned to paint the landscapes of western Norway, defining Norwegian painting for the first time."
Norway's newly found independence from Denmark encouraged painters to develop their Norwegian identity, especially with landscape painting by artists such as Kitty Kielland, a female painter who studied under Hans Gude, and Harriet Backer, another pioneer among female artists, influenced by impressionism. Frits Thaulow, an impressionist, was influenced by the art scene in Paris as was Christian Krohg, a realist painter, famous for his paintings of prostitutes.
Of particular note is Edvard Munch, a symbolist/expressionist painter who became world-famous for The Scream which is said to represent the anxiety of modern man.
Other artists of note include Harald Sohlberg, a neo-romantic painter remembered for his paintings of Røros, and Odd Nerdrum, a figurative painter who maintains that his work is not art but kitsch.
Norway's culinary traditions show the influence of long seafaring and farming traditions with salmon (fresh and cured), herring (pickled or marinated), trout, codfish and other seafood balanced by cheeses, dairy products and breads (predominantly dark/darker).
Lefse is a Norwegian potato flatbread, usually topped with large amounts of butter and sugar, most common around Christmas. Some traditional Norwegian dishes include lutefisk, smalahove, pinnekjøtt, raspeball and fårikål.
Sports are a central part of Norwegian culture, and popular sports include Association football, biathlon, cross-country skiing, ski jumping and, to a lesser degree, ice hockey and handball. Norway is the most successful country in the Winter Olympics of all time.
Association football is the most popular sport in Norway in terms of active membership. In 2014–15 polling, football ranked far behind biathlon and cross-country skiing in terms of popularity as spectator sports. Ice hockey is the biggest indoor sport. The women's handball national team has won several titles, including two Summer Olympics championships (2008, 2012), three World Championships (1999, 2011, 2015) and six European Championship (1998, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2014).
The Norwegian national football team has participated three times in the FIFA World Cup (1938, 1994, 1998), and once in the European Championship (2000). The highest FIFA ranking Norway has achieved is 2nd, a position it has held twice, in 1993 and in 1995.
Chess is also gaining popularity in Norway. Magnus Carlsen is the current world champion. There are about 10 Grandmasters and 29 International Masters in Norway.
Norway first participated at the Olympic Games in 1900, and has sent athletes to compete in every Games since then, except for the sparsely attended 1904 Games and the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow when they participated in the American-led boycott. Famous Norwegian winter sport athletes are, for instance, biathlete Ole Einar Bjørndalen and cross country skiers Marit Bjørgen and Bjørn Dæhlie.
Norway has hosted the Games on two occasions:
- 1952 Winter Olympics in Oslo
- 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer