iluliaq

Photojournalism

iluliaq is a visual narrative about daily life in one of the most isolated places on earth: Greenland. I stayed with a number of families there to observe their life and record their personal stories. The series paints an intimate picture of the towns of Sisimiut, Nuuk and Ilulissat that saw a tremendous evolution because of Danish colonization, forcing the Greenland Inuit to search for a new balance between their traditional culture — that adheres to the ideal of harmony with nature — and the rapid introduction of Western values and customs. It is a search in which the Greenlanders run the risk of losing their identity and self along the way.

Wandering around the harbor of Ilulissat I found a man who wanted to take me for a boat trip on the sea. The wind corralled the crumbling ice into the small harbor. At first it looks like the boats are laying on a glacier but some of them succeed in pushing aside the ice and proceed. After negotiating with the young fisherman we make a fair deal. I have to admit that I’m scared when I see his small open boat. It is not longer than three meters. The ice crashes hard against the exterior of the boat when we make our way through. 
We enter a forest of icebergs. The path between is chrome and slate, a mirror that doesn’t reflect. It is ripple-battered, then smooth. Icebergs are creaking. Bits of rubble skidded down sleek walls. The glazed wing of an iceberg catches light. From one translucent arch, a row of blue tearsdrops fall. 
I’m shivering from cold. My hands can’t hold the camera anymore. I’m standing next to the big man who doesn’t show a glimpse of chill. The wind is cutting my face and it feels like I can’t move anymore. Music is playing softly and the fishermen hummes the pop songs which echoes in the silence. Everywhere you can hear ice cracking and falling into the sea. He sails far enough from the big icebergs in order to prevent the falling ice from hitting the boat. We pass next to an iceberg that carries sand and stones. He tells me that the top was once connected to the bottom of the sea, but turned afterwards. Nature is alway looking for its balance and wants to keep it. When the ice looses its balance and tries to find it even if they have to turn over and over again. 
The fisherman told me that this beauty of nature always hides danger. It does unpredictable things, things you sometimes don’t expect. His voice quivers, his eyes are lost in the infinite view. “Last summer my friend went fishing on his boat, but never returned home. A whale bumped his small boat and he fell into the ice cold water. After that it didn’t take long untill he disappeared…” The song continues but the silence is killing.
I just landed in a totally unknown country, someone invites me to join a Kaffemik. It was only two o’clock in the afternoon, but it felt like diner time. Everyone greets me very kindly and a lady offers me some water. Kids are playing and they speak a language that I have never heard. I can’t understand any word they’re saying. A young boy runs into the house and shouts that someone died. Everyone knows who he is talking about and silence takes on the crowded athmosphere. 
Only one day after the woman died, her funeral takes place. An old Ford hearse drives slowly from the church to the graveyard followed by the whole town. I quickly grab my coat and strumble outside. I see people dressed in their traditional clothes which are made of seal skin. Luckily these clothes are hard to walk in so I can catch up easily.  
A low fog suddenly appears over the moutains and surrounds us. The light isn’t so bright anymore. The dead woman’s sons carry the coffin to the place she will rest. I am stunned when I see that they start to dig a hole in hard soil by themselves. Their hands are painfully red and covered in dirt as tears flow down their faces. I keep my distance and watch the moment go by. The valley gradually fills with echoes of Greenlandic verses.
"The end is near, and I walk to the dogs for the last time. They are howling, a sound that is familiar now. Squealing tires catch my attention. They stop not so far away from me and three men are dragging a dead seal out of the trunk. With cigarettes hanging from their lips, they sharpen their knives. The oldest man holds his blade up to the sun and his honed edge glistens. One long cut from chin to back flippers and the skin breaks open, guts with curds of fat. He cuts out the liver and puts it in the fridge next to him. He grabs the intestines and throws them with a large pitch towards the dogs who tear them apart. When I come closer, the old man and his two sons are laughing and chewing on the hot liver, steaming in the fridged air. Their mouths and chins are dripping with blood. They ask me to join them and offer me a piece. My expression speaks volumes and they laugh."
“A trance befalls me, a waist-deep lull of boredom. But boredom can be a friend. The mind empties out and refills, oh so slowly, with another order of things.” Gretel Erhlich.

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