There's Something About ... Greenland

I'd say a good 70% of my time is spent dreaming of travel. I'm a relatively late-bloomer in the world travel stakes, taking my first solo trip at 23, yet I'm now completely infatuated with the idea of far-flung places, and the culture and communities that call them home. 

In this 'There's Something About...' series, I'm going to sift through the locations / countries I hope to visit in the future. 

I'm drawn to places where life is stripped-back and simple. Note I use the word simple, and not easy, as some of the most remote places also demand the most resilience, but in a world that's constantly becoming more connected, modernised and Westernised, these places pull me in the most. 

Earlier this year, as I sat in Keflavik airport waiting for my plane back to London, I looked up at the departures board to see a scheduled flight to Nuuk, Greenland. I don't know if it's the fact that it's such a vast and mysterious country, or if I've just seen The Secret Life of Walter Mitty too many times, but Greenland feels like a life-enhancing icy frontier.

  Image -  Pixabay

Image - Pixabay

The Greenlandic word for art is “Eqqumiitsuliorneq”
— www.visitgreenland.com

Whilst I hope to visit Greenland for pure exploration, of course I can't resist delving into the country's art history.

The art of Greenland began with the seal / whale hunters' tradition of decorating skin, fabric and tools. However the arrival of European settlers in the 16th Century introduced the concept of visual art that could represent much more than simply decoration.

Over time Greenlandic art became more ambitious and more established, and by the 19th Century it came to represent landscapes, important people and significant events - establishing an individual visual language an creating a visual history of the country's heritage.

Folklore, myth and legend can tell us so much about a country's culture, and Greenland is no exception. One particularly memorable (i.e terrifying) creation is the Greenlandic Tupilaq (meaning 'soul of the ancestor') - a small carved figure said to protect its owner from enemy attack.

These totems were historically carved from antlers, bone, tusks etc. (in-keeping with Greenlanders' tradition of creating art out of natural materials like wool, seal skin and mussel shells), and can still be purchased as souvenirs today. Now, since this is an ancient tradition I won't get into the ethical quagmire of the issues I have with using antlers and tusks to carve Tupilaq - let's just appreciate the artistry, shall we?

In many ways, Greenland is becoming a respected player in the global art scene, particularly since many young artists are currently distancing themselves from tradition and pushing towards new, contemporary art forms. 

However, that doesn't mean they've turned their back on their heritage. Something tells me Greenlandic culture isn't so easy to shake.

Greenland has two notable art institutions - Nuuk Art Museum and, a bit further afield in west Greenland, Ilulisaat Art Museum.

 

Sources: www.visitgreenland.com | uk.uni.gl/about-us/art-at-campus-ilimmarfik/aka-hoeegh