Humans of Greenland

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Manu | 18 August 2016 | no comments
Inuit, Greenland, kulusuk

The smiling face of Greenlandic people is one of those things that makes you fall in love with this country forever


There is a painting in the hotel where I work, here in Kulusuk, East Greenland, representing an Inuit sited outside his or her tent contemplating a sun setting on a bay full of icebergs. The first time I watched that painting I barely noticed it. On the very first day we met, Naja, my Greenlandic friend, told me that painting was actually her favourite art piece in the entire world, because it represents the essence of her country, Greenland. So for more than two months, I have been watching that painting daily while experiecing Greenland.

Kulusuk, greenland, Inuit

Sitting for hours in the sunshine is Greenland’s Inuit’s favorite Summer hobby

I started to meet its beautiful peaceful people, discovered the love they have for their world and I started to understand why they sit for hours in the sun in the neverending summer days of June, when the Sun never gives up to the darkness neither to the stars, but get possession of the sky and almost make everybody believe it will keep it forever; I learned to listen to their quiet way of talking to each other, so similar to other native population of other far away lands , trying not to disturb the world surrounding them and get wrapped in it, in order to survive. Silence and quietness can be the key world to survive when you stand in front of a polar bear, around here; slowly I started to understand when they speak and to get used to their language, so full of different sounds from mine. I started to understand their slow movements, once again so typical of those ancient societies that live timeless, because our time and our stress don’t belong to them; I learnt to respect their rhythm and to give a meaning to it.

drumdance, Greenland, east greenland, inuit

Anda, Kulusuk’s drum dancer, comes from a family of drum dancers and shamans. he is the Jolly of the village, as I like to imagine him

I learnt to listen to their music, that “drum dance” that has so much in common with the African rhythmic music, completely unknown at these latitudes, and to feel the heart beating faster everytime a drum dancer starts to hit his polar bear skin made drum and sing a song about hunting, winter, nature, life. The words are unknown but those ancient songs sing to the heart of the human being and you can perceive the meaning without knowing the language, just by listening to the rythm and observing the gestures of the singer. Those songs sing about the ancient fight to survive and the perils hidden in every corner of this world, but also about the love these people have for their land, of the awareness they have to leave in one of the most beautiful places of Planet Earth and of the willing to stay here forever.

drum dancer, tasiilaq, east greenland

Anda’s nephew, drum dancer, too, in Tasiilaq, grew up in the US until he felt the call back from his motherland and came back to greenland deciding to learn this old family tradition

Theirs is not a music. It is only a rythm, the same one based on the natural rythm of the seasons, of Life. In the past, Inuit people used to solve personal conflicts with drum duels, and this tells so much about their peaceful nature and the high level of civilization they have reached and that has allowed them probably to survive till us.

Religion, Greenland, kulusuk, cemetery

A grave, on the top of a rocky hill, facing the Glacier. the connection Inits have with Nature is a hold that goes beyond death

The relationship Inuits have with the Nature and the spirits of the nature, with their ancestors and their past, is a relationships that links them to the land they come from and to the landscape they are part of. Nature is not always good here . And therefore they are scared of it and they respect it as a enemy their lives depends on. When they dye their spirit doesn’t dye, but it is reborn in the body of the newest baby born in the community, who will get the same name of the dead one.

My_1st_impressions_ Kulusuk cemetery copy

That’s the reason why their graves have no name on. What it dies is only the body, that deserves to rest next to the ocean, where all their cemeteries are built, symbol of all the good things they get in life in order to survive, like fishes, and seals. The new born will be always linked to the family he or she took the name from, even if this one is not part of his family. Useless to say, this strengths the sense of community of a people of only 54 000 people living here since thousands years.

church, kulusuk, greenland

Kulusuk church built wight he wood of a ship wrech

The importance of sharing with others is a feeling I have seen only in the African communities. When they kill a whale or a seal, or even a polar bear, there is a kind of celebrating atmosphere in the village, because there is food for the entire community. The village inhabitants don’t pay to get a piece of meat. The meat is just shared among all of them, because they just help each other and because they share everything, even the hunger. Even the kids get a piece of seal or whale meat, that can be a piece of skin that they eat raw or the liver.

Pilot whales, Greenland, whales in greenland, whale hunting

Two tired hunters arrive at the harbour with a pilot whale on their tiny boat, now full of blood.

Since they are kids, all of them learn that until there will be ice, until there will be polar bears and seals, until the Arctic will exist, there will always be food for everyone. And there will be Life, that simple Life of a place like Kulusuk, a settlement on the East Coast of Greenland with only 220 people, where I have spent my last three months, a very simple life, with no extra luxury, with no running water in the houses and a common house in the center of the village where they all go to shower and wash their clothes.

My_1st_impressions_Inuit of Greenland-3 copy

This is what I have learnt so far about these people. And in these days that painting that didn’t manage to communicate me anything until few weeks ago, is slowly starting to talk to me and my heart. I came here for this, at the end, I came here to give Greenland the possibility to astonish me. That painting describes the astonishment I look at the world outside my window every morning when I wake up and the one I have when I admire the night that doesn’t exist int he neverending Midsummer’s days of the Arctic. That painting describes the essence of life, in front of a sun setting on a land that will never dye…


The painting.
Il quadro.


Humans of Greenland