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Gammelt redskab 'ulo'

Cultural encounters and exchange in Greenland

Last modified: 01.02.2021

Kulturmøder og udveksling i Grønland (Dansk Version) 
/Lisbeth Valgreen 


Set fra Europa har Grønland i århundreder været svært tilgængelig. Men der været stor mobilitet blandt de kulturer, der har beboet Grønland. Med mobiliteten har der også været møder mellem mennesker fra forskellige kulturer. Der er blevet udvekslet naturalier såvel som sprog, kultur og gener. Nordboerne levede i Grønland i knapt 500 år (fra 980erne og frem), og fra arkæologiske fund ved man, at de har mødt både tunit, som levede i Grønland før nordboernes ankomst, og de senere tilrejsende inuit. De første inuit kom til det nordligste Grønland fra Canada i 1200-tallet, og i løbet af 1400-tallet havde de bevæget sig både til Sydgrønland og nord om øen til Nordøstgrønland. Inuit og nordboerne har under fangstrejser mødt hinanden i Nordgrønland i 12-1300-tallet, hvor de udvekslede varer. 

Mens nordboerne forsvandt i midten af 1400-tallet, fortsatte inuit med at rejse rundt i Grønland som seminomader på fangst, fiskeri og ikke mindst til de årlige sommermøder, aasiviit. Aasiviit [sommerpladser] var en vigtig tradition for inuit; her mødtes man fra nær og fjern for at udveksle varer, synge, danse, spise og finde ægtefæller. Måske kunne man få afgjort verserende stridigheder, i nogle tilfælde hævndrab, med sangkamp, eller blive underholdt med trommedans. 
 
Fra 1500 til 1700-tallet, da inuit boede talrigt over hele Vestgrønland, opstod der en intens handel med de mange tilrejsende europæiske hvalfangere fra bl.a. Holland, Portugal og Skotland. Inuit kunne levere skind og pels i bytte for varer som fx glasperler og hollandske sejlmagerknive af metal. De havde samme form som inuits egne kvindeknive, uluer, oprindeligt lavet af stenarten skifer. Glasperlerne blev af høj symbolsk værdi. I dag kender man perlerne fra kraven i den kvindelige festdragt. Mange af disse eftertragtede varer blev udvekslet inuitgrupper imellem på de traditionelle aasiviit. Aasivik-traditionen forsvandt i begyndelsen af 1900-tallet. 

På det tidspunkt havde den danske kolonimagt for længst fået fejet de europæiske konkurrenter af banen. Under den tyske besættelse af Danmark bragte amerikanske soldater og postordrekataloger ny inspiration, og med tilflytningen af mange danskere efter Anden Verdenskrig oplevede Grønland en massiv påvirkning af dansk kultur, sprog og levevis. I 1970erne vendte opmærksomheden sig mod den grønlandske selvforståelse, eget sprog og kultur, og ønsket om løsrivelse fra Danmark. Det betød bl.a., at man i 1976 genopfandt ideen om aasiviit, sommerstævnerne. Det var særligt den grønlandske ungdom, der genoplivede den traditionelle aasivik-tanke (muligvis også inspireret af fx den amerikanske musikfestival Woodstock). Man brugte musikken som omdrejningspunkt for at mødes, men det var i høj grad den politiske og kulturelle bevidstgørelse, der var i fokus. 

Cultural encounters and exchange in Greenland (English Version)
/ Lisbeth Valgreen 

 

Seen from a European perspective, Greenland has for centuries been hard-to-reach. There has, however, been great mobility among the cultures which inhabited Greenland resulting in several encounters between people with different cultural backgrounds. Consequently, there was great exchange of goods as well as language, culture and genes. 

The Norse population lived in Greenland for almost 500 years (from 980 onwards). Archaeological findings tell us how they encountered with both Tuniit - who lived in Greenland before the Norse settlers arrived - and then Inuit who turned up later. The first Inuit arrived from Canada to the northernmost part of Greenland in the 13th century, whereafter they moved to both South and Northeast Greenland during the 15th century. During hunting trips, the Norse seetlers and Inuit met in North Greenland in the 12th and 13th centuries, where they exchanged goods. 

While the Norsemen disappeared in the middle of the 15th century, Inuit continued to travel around Greenland as semi-nomads. They went on hunting and fishing trips as well as trips to the annual summer meetings, Aasiviit. Aasiviit [summer camps] were an important Inuit tradition; here people met from near and far to exchange goods, to drum dance, sing and eat - and to search for a spouse. The camps also became occasion to settle ongoing disagreements– sometimes even past revenge killings – by means of song duals. 

From the 16th to the 18th century, when the Inuit lived in large numbers spread throughout West Greenland, intense trading with the many visiting European whalers from e.g.. Holland, Portugal and Scotland took place. Inuit could supply skin and fur in exchange for goods such as glass beads and Dutch sailmaker knives made of metal. They had the same shape as the Inuit's own “woman’s knife”, the ulu, originally made of slate stone. The glass beads became of high symbolic value. Today, one might recognize the pearls from the collar of the national woman’s dress. Many of these coveted goods were exchanged between Inuit groups on the traditional aasiviit. The Aasivik tradition disappeared in the early 1900s. 

At that time, the Danish colonial power had driven European competitors out of the market a long time ago. During the German occupation of Denmark, new inspiration was brought to Greenland by American soldiers and mail-order catalogs. Furthermore, with a big inflow of Danish residence after World War II, Greenland was strongly influenced by Danish culture, language and way of life. 
In the 1970s, the attention turned to focus on a Greenlandic self-image, the Greenlandic language and culture, as well as the desire for independence. In 1976, this movement was followed by a reinvention of the traditional concept of ​​aasiviit. It was especially the Greenlandic youth who brought the traditional concept back to life (possibly inspired by the American music festival Woodstock). Music became the occasion to meet, but it was largely the political and cultural awareness which was in focus.

 

For further reading please click here to get access to the reference list.  

 

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