Getting to Know Greenland
Greenland is 80% covered in ice, gets scarcely over 10°C (50°F) even at the height of summer, and is one of the least densely populated landmasses on Earth. These rugged conditions go far in explaining why this remote island, the largest on Earth, is one of the most cherished Arctic voyage attractions. But though most cruises visiting Greenland strive to educate their passengers on the Inuit who call the island home, there’s only so much that can be covered in a standard-length sailing trip. Lately, however, a new Greenland exhibition further explores this fascinating culture in the detail it deserves.
The Greenlandic Inuit Exhibition
The Faces from the Scoresby Sund Exhibition, based both in the East Greenland town of Ittoqqortoormiit as well as the Uummannaq Children’s Home, features a collection of photographs of Inuit people taken during the 1970s. At the Uummannaq exhibition, a few of the portraits were even accompanied by the living descendants (orphans of the Children’s Home) of the people captured in the photos. Recent showings also ended with an Inuit artist, Jose Joelsen, performing Greenlandic songs, dance, and telling folkloric stories.
Exhibition Inception & Inspiration
The collection began with Ko de Korte, a Dutch biologist who worked near Ittoqqortoormiit from 1973 to 1975. “I began taking these photos without any intention of using them publicly,” he says. De Korte had been working on his doctoral thesis at the time, and collecting pictures of local people in daily life and seasonal hunting practices was just part of his interest in the Arctic. “But eventually these pictures resulted in my book, Faces from the Scoresby Sund.” That book, called Kiinnat Kangertittivaq-miit in Greenlandic, in turn resulted in the exhibition. So far the photos have traveled to more than 10 venues in the Netherlands, Iceland, Denmark, and now Greenland.
Communicating Greenland Cultures
The exhibition has also inspired a workshop at the Uummannaq Children’s Home meant to nurture a sense of cultural heritage among the orphans there. The week prior to the exhibition opening in Uummannaq, the Inuit singer Joelsen instructed the children in some of his drum numbers. Afterward, the children performed these numbers for visitors attending the exhibition. De Korte also gave a lecture prior to the performance, explaining the purpose of the exhibition and how it began.
An Arctic Labor of Love
For de Korte, the exhibition is more than just an interesting diversion. “You can’t help but be moved under these circumstances,” he says, describing a time the orphans drew him pictures of their favorite day from summer. De Korte also remembers fondly a story Joelsen told during the exhibition. “It was about two animals that loved each other, but they had different natures. One was a raven, a stationary bird, and the other was a goose, a migratory bird. They had a good time in summer, but in autumn the goose wanted to migrate while the raven wanted to stay put.” De Korte reflects on this, smiling. “I hope to meet that singer again.”
What, Where & When in Greenland
Two thirds of the exhibition is in Uummannaq until September 2018, while the remaining third is in Ittoqqortoormiit without an end date. From August to October, Oceanwide Expeditions runs a variety of Scoresby Sund cruises that visit Faces of the Scoresby Sund. The exhibitions are free of charge, though only open by request. If interested, please contact us here.