What‘s life like when the sun does not touch your face for 75 days? This question spurred on me, as I decided to spend the winter in the north of Greenland. In Uummannaq, a village with 1300 souls, which is only connected through the outside world through the weekly helicopter ride.
What captivated me in the first place were the astounding lighting moods and colors. A landscape which formed anew with each day, even with each hour. The icebergs were in a way lifelong, some dwelling only for a brief period of time, others for weeks in the same location. I was able to look into the harbor, through the kitchen window, and see how the fishermen, each morning, with unbelievable patience, had to carve out their way into the open sea. With the utmost respect and admiration, I saw the lights of the fishing boats vanish into the infinite nightfall.
I really wanted to purchase a fresh halibut from the fishermen. I eventually reached the fishing boat via the frozen ship decks. I communicated with hands and feet, I understood three kilos, he gave me three whole halibuts, which was far more than three kilos. Therefore, I had sufficient supply, the fish was simply brought in front of my door and now they are already deep frozen.
Each day, I have started to pursue the discovery of both the territory and the people. However, I did not find African openness and an inviting life on the street. At -30°C and with the unending darkness, the social life does not take place on the street. I have found people gathering together at the supermarket and in schoolhouses, where the children play football. In the evening, people meet in the only pub, in order to play pool, party and be together.
I wanted to discover the everyday life from up close, so I resolved to visit people in their houses. The houses do not have a doorbell, the doors are never closed and the Inuit never knock. In my own case, this seemed somewhat disrespectful, in accordance to the local customs simply to enter and, therefore, I decided, nevertheless, to knock. And so I became the “knocker from Uummannaq.”
The doors opened to reveal a world that was strange and yet extraordinarily familiar. The images that I saw and the ones I knew from books and magazines differed tremendously. There, the hunters do not wear polar bear fur pants and do not leave in igloos. The homes are furnished in a simple but comfortable manner. Photos from relatives and traditional handwork represent a big part of the furnishing, such as proudly presented hunting trophies, narwhale tusk or polar bear skulls. There is a TV and a couch (often times, the same model). A kitchen and a WC which must be emptied on a daily basis, as there is no sewer system.
The people are cautious at first, they ask you from the start why you have come to them, in the winter season. With the passing of time, their trust can be gained and, thus, you are given insight into a life, a daily existence, of which I was not aware and wish to share with you: whether we are speaking about the early morning observance of narwhales or of the warming up, in the evening, with family around, there were those moments, which, for me, should be defining.
The people are strongly connected with their family, the community and nature. By contrast, they are best informed about the general world affairs through the Internet. These extremes fascinated me. What are the values a young Greenlander latches upon? Will he follow the footsteps of his forefathers and become a hunter, or should he go to a school of arts in Denmark?
The everlasting darkness and the inhospitable conditions made me work harder. I had to motivate myself, always more intensively, to leave the comfortable warmth of the house, each morning and take photographs out in the cold. A difficulty presented in the form of strong temperature oscillations, when one came from the cold into the warm house, the object lens was covered with mist within a matter of seconds.
As in every year, on 9th of February, the sun finally rose over the horizon. I was really touched and took delight in the vital energy of the sunlight.
„Aluu Uanga ateqarpunga Jonas Assiliisartuuvunga Isersinnaavunga, illut illillu assilillutitf“
„Hello, My name is Jonas and I am a photographer. May I come in and take photos of you and your house.”