A Greenlander At Home in New York City

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Today I came across a story about one Greenlander, Inuuteq Storch, who had an amazing experience in New York City which changed his life. I thought it was fitting to share it because I myself am in New York City at this very moment, and as I walked along 34th Street toward Broadway, I imagined what it must have been like for him to arrive here and suddenly feel at home amongst a few million people.

The following is my translation of an article originally published in Greenlandic and Danish only.

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A Magical Year in New York

“I felt at home in New York from Day 1. The city suits my mentality, and I felt comfortable in the big city’s international art scene. People showed a huge interest in my artwork and my story, so I was able to establish a network in the art community which I can take advantage of in my further developments as an artist,” said artistic photographer Inuuteq Storch, who, after a year at the International Center of Photography in New York, has now returned home to Sisimiut [Greenland].

The 27-year-old Storch’s artistic photography teacher at the Fotomorgana school in Copenhagen had recommended that he take this year at one of the world’s best art schools, where Storch, together with 70 other young artists, went through a Certificate Program in photography, artistic photography and photojournalism at the International Center of Photography in New York.

Standalone Artist

“I was recommended the school in New York because I am a standalone artist. I know I am unique because I have always gone my own way, both personally and artistically. All of my photo motifs are from Greenland, and my artistic expression stems from my Greenlandic roots. Artistic photography from Greenland is unseen in New York, so naturally there was interest for my photographs amongst the other artists I met through exhibits and showings there,” says Storch, who also stands out in a crowd due to his outward appearance with a manicured long moustache and nice eyes, as well as a large black hat that sits atop long black hair.

“For me, it is important to express positivity, probably because I get the negativity out of my head and into my pictures,” he says.

Storch first had to get together more than 250000 Danish Kroner [37000 USD / 34000 EUR] to be able to take the year in New York. He had actually applied and gotten accepted to the school two times previously, but it was only in 2015 that he finally had all the funding together to be able to fulfill his dream.

“When it finally worked out, it was a magical year,” says the charismatic young man.

Big Development

Storch has been interested in photography since his youth, so he no doubt underwent big developments during his time at the International Center of Photography from September 2015 to the end of August 2016.

“I went through a big development as an artistic photographer during my time in New York – especially technique- and identity-wise. My eyes were also opened to expressing myself through photo books, where previously I had focused on exhibits. I also learned a lot about myself as an artist, and now I know that I am a special artist within the realm of artistic photography, specifically because I root myself in my Greenlandic background and because I use Greenlandic motifs in my work.”

Storch says that he has good opportunities to further develop his art in New York.

“If I could have extended my stay in New York, I would have had the opportunity to be apprentice to a photographer who I got to know through several exhibits and showings I participated in while in New York. But, I went home instead because I missed my girlfriend, family, and the Greenlandic nature.”

Projects

Inuuteq Storch has for several years now worked on a project about a young hunter’s life in Sisimiut. In addition, he has started working on a book with photos from his year in New York. When artistic photography is not that lucrative in Greenland, it is necessary for the young artist to earn money another way.

“Together with two other peers from the art school in New York, I am working on preparing a photo exhibit that will be shown at Taseralik Culture House in Sisimiut in summer 2017. I hope it can also be shown in Nuuk.”

Storch himself saved a large amount of the money needed for his stay in New York. He also took a loan from the bank as well as received money via crowd funding and sponsors such as Royal Greenland A/S.

Story written by: Inga Egede ineg@royalgreenland.com

Visit Inuuteq Storch’s website at http://www.inuuteqstorch.com.

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Why I eat Greenlandic Food

In autumn I started a little unofficial ‘Portrait of a Greenlander’ series to highlight Anne Nivíka Grødem, the Greenlandic Foodlover. Now we’re cooperating in a new way. Here in February, I’m so proud to be a weekly guest blogger on her website, www.greenlandicfoodlover.com. Everything on the website relates in some way to food and health and Greenland – whether it’s delicious new recipes to try out or tips for keeping healthy skin in winter.

My posts on Greenlandic Foodlover are written in Danish, but I’m reproducing them here in English.

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ON APPRECIATING ANOTHER CULTURE

By: Sarah Woodall

When I came up here for the first time, I knew nothing about the Greenlandic food environment, and I knew nothing about the rules for importing and exporting food, for example. I had no idea how much vegetables cost, and I had absolutely never heard of seal- and whale-hunting.

Yes, I was completely new and unknowledgeable, but it also meant I had no preconceptions or prejudices against Greenland or the Greenlandic people. Everything I know about Greenland now, I learned here. With respect to food, I was totally open to eat anything that was served. One must try everything at least once, is what I learned as a child, and such a saying goes a long way here in the Arctic.

In the beginning, I ate Greenlandic food to show my respect and appreciation for the country’s culture. I thought to myself, When I am in your land, it should be me who adapts myself to your ways. Not the other way around.

I can remember the very first time I tried fried whale meat at a birthday lunch. Everyone at the table looked at me and waited to see my reaction (which was that I thought it tasted very good). And I can remember a time my friend came home with fresh raw seal liver. I ate that without a second thought, although maybe with just a small hesitation before the first bite. They were all completely taken aback that I could imagine trying such a thing!

P1000638 Whale on the barbie! Fantastic summer day on the terrace with short sleeves, sunglasses, and Greenlandic specialties! And with two (live) whales in the bay, too.

Now I eat Greenlandic food because I want to. It’s not every day, but, for example, I do buy whale meat and mattak (whale skin & fat), and I ask for Greenlandic food whenever there’s a choice. I have experienced overall that Greenlanders are surprised by my openness, my willingness, and even my desire to eat the Greenlandic specialties. One of my best friends always says that it is truly amazing I like the taste of ‘Arctic blood’. It makes me proud.

Top left: Boiled seal meat for suaasat soup. Top right: South Greenlandic lamb leg. Bottom: Mattak (whale skin & fat), served with aromat seasoning and strips of dark rye bread.

IMG_5051 An interesting find at the grocery store! Greenlandic Trio Pack of 1) ground Minke whale meat 2) ground muskox meat and 3) fish mashed with cream, vegetables, etc.

I think it is important as a foreigner to be open for the different food cultures you meet. It is also just as important for the culture one comes into to feel that it is valuable itself. The simple fact that a foreigner is open to take on new food habits and adopt them as their own is certainly a success, isn’t it?

I don’t mean that the value of a culture should be decided by the outside world. On the contrary! But when a foreigner wishes to immerse herself in the Greenlandic lifestyle and food culture, it’s a proof that such a lifestyle is unique and very special.

Therefore I eat Greenlandic food. Because it supports the Greenlandic culture, because I can, and because I want to.

The Greenlandic food scene: how to adapt and accept

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In autumn I started a little unofficial ‘Portrait of a Greenlander’ series to highlight Anne Nivíka Grødem, the Greenlandic Foodlover. Now we’re cooperating in a new way. Here in February, I’m so proud to be a weekly guest blogger on her website, www.greenlandicfoodlover.com. Everything on the website relates in some way to food and health and Greenland – whether it’s delicious new recipes to try out or tips for keeping healthy skin in winter.

My posts on Greenlandic Foodlover are written in Danish, but I’m reproducing them here in English.

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HOW AN AMERICAN ADAPTS HER HABITS IN GREENLAND

By: Sarah Woodall 

I was raised in Washington, D.C. in a huge food environment. There, nothing is missed in the grocery store, and there are tons of specialty shops with Asian, Mexican, and organic ingredients, to name a few. Everything is available everywhere, every day, and one can go shopping 24/7. When I would make dinner, I found inspiration by searching new and delicious-sounding recipes on the Internet and in magazines. There was never a question of whether I could find the special ingredients I would need for them.

When I got to Greenland, I experienced a completely different food environment. The choices were smaller, and season and price are always limiting factors. Due to these, most of the exciting recipes out there just don’t work in Greenland, especially in small settlements or in the middle of the winter season. But through the years, I have learned a few good tips about adapting to and accepting the Greenlandic food environment, which Greenlanders surely discovered themselves many decades ago:

  • Make dinner based on the daily specials at the store and market. That way, you will always be successful.
  • Harvest the Greenlandic nature whenever possible. Pick crowberries and blueberries to put into yummy sauces, smoothies, and cakes. Cut stalks of angelica to lightly flavor water. Go hunting for your own reindeer, muskox, seal, and ptarmigan. Fish for redfish, cod, trout, and capelin, for example.
  • If the necessary ingredients are sold out or otherwise unavailable, use your creativity and get similar ingredients instead. (For example: use pears instead of apples or creme fraiche instead of Skyr or greek yogurt)
  • Frozen vegetables are better than no vegetables.
  • Making food should be a pleasure.
  • Simple food is still tasty food. Meals made of 3 ingredients can be just as delicious as those made of 9.

But once in a while I find a recipe that sounds so good I simply must try to make it happen. A few days ago I found a recipe of Rachael Ray’s (the famous american TV chef). The recipe was for a stuffed chicken breast with potato pancakes. I thought it sounded so tasty, and it was completely different than the typical dishes I make. When I went shopping in Pisiffik, one of the grocery store chains in Greenland, I was actually able to find all the ingredients. So I thought to myself, Finally, a recipe which can be made in Greenland!

Are you looking for inspiration for dinner or just for some diversity to your recipe box? Try this Stuffed Chicken with Rösti Potatoes tonight!

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Photo from: www.rachaelraymag.com 

 

Follow @Polarphile on Instagram!

Follow me on Instagram at @Polarphile to see what my daily life in Nuuk, Greenland looks like!

Here’s a few snapshots from the last week:

Celebrating the Return of the Sun in Ilulissat, plus 4 Things I (Re)Learned About Greenland Doing It

IMG_4974  Southerly view over the Ilulissat Icefjord toward the sunrise, standing at Seqinniarfik. Photo taken: 13 Jan 2016.

First sunrise in 6 weeks

Yesterday the sun rose above the horizon in Ilulissat for the first time in six weeks. Do you remember where you were or what you were doing on 30 November last year? Probably not; it feels so long ago. Now imagine that you have not set eyes on the sun – the very thing you’re taught not to look directly at – since that day.

Needless to say, there’s a bit of a celebration in Ilulissat to bid the sun welcome back. Schools and offices close early, and everyone trudges in one way or another out to a viewpoint called Seqinniarfik in the UNESCO World Heritage Site to watch the sun come up over the mountains on the south side of the Ilulissat Icefjord, take a small skip across the sky, and go down again a mere 52 minutes later.

I joined the masses out there on the hill and was so happy the share the time surrounded by people. Much like most of my experiences in Greenland, it was an instant renewal of my appreciation for the country and a reminder about these 4 things I’ve come to learn about Greenland over time.

DSCN2786 Starting out toward Seqinniarfik. Check the tiny dots (people) on the top of the hill! And that’s not even the final spot. Photo taken: 13 Jan 2016

 

1) Nothing comes on a silver platter

A nicely-plowed plank boardwalk all the way from the road up to Seqinniarfik could have been a dream, but this is Greenland, where even a well-defined sidewalk in town is sometimes too much to ask.

The route to Seqinniarfik was through sled dog territory and over natural terrain, perfectly easy to clear in summer but slightly challenging in winter conditions. The snow was crunchy sheets that didn’t always hold my weight, sending me sinking into knee-deep snow beneath. The high winds of the last two weeks continued and were so strong at my back it gave me a pressure headache and made me dread having to walk into the force on the way home. I didn’t dare to grab my camera out of my pocket for fear of either dropping it or, much worse, having one of my precious sealskin mittens blow away in the midst of a juggling maneuver.

Of course, I did dare because I just had to take a picture, but after even just a few minutes with gloves off, your fingers start to lose mobility to even press the shutter button. Then you have to make the really difficult choice between ‘getting the shot’ (or taking a selfie, let’s be honest) and feeling like you might lose an index finger. All mittens stayed thankfully in my possession but the minus temperatures rendered both my iPhone and digital camera frozen in place after a mere four or five times coming out of my pocket.

No, it’s not always a piece of cake to get out into the Greenlandic nature in winter, but it sure is worth it once you’re there.

 IMG_4976 Seqinniarfik selfie. At the top. Photo taken: 13 Jan 2016.

 

2) There are no words for how stunning Greenland is

Sometimes you can sit looking at the Greenlandic landscape and you could just cry. I have said this myself, and I have heard tourists say it, too. It is a natural reaction when you have so many impressions and feelings swirling around in your body that can’t get out in a normal way with thoughts or speech. Instead, they jump out themselves in a most physical manner.

This country is breathtaking and incredible. The nature is pure and raw and strong and powerful. In pictures I have seen other places that the world calls beautiful, maybe because they are colorful or peaceful, and I always think to myself, ‘Did those places challenge people’s willpower, make them stronger, and generally put humanity to the test?’ To me, that is beauty.

Greenland is not beautiful despite its extreme conditions. It is beautiful because of them.

 

3) The weakest Greenlander is still stronger than the average person

If someone had a mere single breath in him or her, they made an effort to reach Seqinniarfik, it seemed. It was not only the young school kids skating around in their high top sneakers on the icy rocks and holding their thin jackets overhead like sails in a summer breeze.

Not even poor physical condition could keep some people away from the hill. I saw older people out there walking through the snow at a pace of maybe two kilometers an hour, one foot in front of the other, but determined nonetheless to see the first sunrise in six weeks. I even saw a woman on her motorized scooter at the end of the road waiting, hopefully, for someone to pick her up on snowmobile. One could imagine they have done this every year for their entire lives. One could imagine this was maybe one of the few times they got out into the nature anymore.

 

4) Greenlanders do appreciate their own nature, even on the 25000th day

I have heard tourists speculate sometimes that Greenlanders probably forget how fantastic the landscape is since they see it day in and day out, coupled with their observation that Greenlanders rarely exclaim “Oh my gosh! How pretty!” and “Look at that!” toward things a tourist definitely would point out.

On the contrary, living close to and appreciating the nature is an innate element of Greenlandic culture. Regardless of whether one is in the biggest city in the country or in the smallest settlement, the nature is always there and always central to life. Greenlanders can be a people of few yet profound words, hence the lack the exclamations, and my own friend explained this very phenomenon in exactly this style.

She said, “Why ruin the moment with words about something that is already obvious?”

Touché.

DSCN2789 View over Ilulissat. Photo taken: 13 Jan 2016.

The Greenlandic Christmas tree: a new Greenlandic tradition?

 

FullSizeRender (2) Instagram photo by: @hannekirkegaard83

A tree grows in Greenland

This year marks the first year that the local forest supplied Christmas trees in Greenland. Unlike the coniferous giants found elsewhere in the world, the trees from Narsarsuaq in South Greenland are diminutive yet cute and fragrant, which South Greenlanders say they prefer over the imported ilk.

All right, ‘local’ has to be taken with a little grain of salt, as these trees were originally transplanted from abroad back in the 1980’s. Spruces from Alaska and Norway, Pine from western USA, and other species from Russia and elsewhere make up Kalaallit Nunaata Orpiuteqarfia, the Greenlandic Arboretum, a true forest.

UAK_Forest Greenlandic Arboretum in Narsarsuaq. Photo by: Kenneth Høegh

Unique Greenlandic scent

Evidently the Greenlandic trees have a scent that suits perfectly to a Greenlander’s nose. Check out this video from the local news about the new trend of Greenlandic Christmas trees. “Tipigi!” is how the clip opens, which is a Greenlandic exclamation when something smells strongly – good strong, in this case.

Fun fact that has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas but everything to do with celebrating special days – Greenlanders write “Tipigi!” on a friend’s or relative’s Facebook wall the day before their birthday to poke a little fun at them.

Holiday markets, orange stars, and other festivities

Christmas trees aren’t the only way Greenlanders celebrate the holidays. Santa Claus comes by in a red helicopter to visit the children, homemade goods are sold at the holiday market, and people hunker down for hygge in the comfort of their own homes, to name a few. Read more here on Greenland.com!

Juullimi pilluarit ukiortaassamilu! That’s Greenlandic for “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!”

Stay In Fashion (and Warm) in Greenland with Qiviut, Muskox Wool

IMG_5129  Kangerlussuaq, 67*N, midday January 2015 (-25*C / -13*F)

How do you stay warm in the Greenland winter? If you’re a tourist, take a tip from the locals. And if you’re a local, you take a tip from the wildlife.

Locals know best

Just like you might follow where the locals go to find the best live music in town, you should note what Greenlanders wear to keep warm.

Of course there are the usual suspects walking around like Canada Goose jackets and Sorel snow boots, but Greenlanders also use a whole host of sustainable locally-sourced animal products as functional, fashionable clothing.

It makes perfect sense, right? These are the very materials that allow Greenland’s wildlife to brave the sub-zero temperatures and icy waters of their Arctic home, and Greenlanders are using their meat and bones for sustenance anyway.

In the north, polar bear fur is common, and sealskin is more and more the image of urban Greenlandic fashion, thanks to the Great Greenland fur house.

But have you heard of muskox wool?

Muskox wool – Greenland’s cashmere

Muskox wool, called qiviut in Greenlandic, is very popular in Greenland for accessories like hats, shawls, and wrist-warmers. It is so fine a material – incredibly warm and soft – and it can even be washed without fear of shrinking. It is the underfur of the muskox, a goat-like animal with thick gnarly horns and an even thicker long coat, that is made into decadent yarn and woven into exquisite pieces. Some of the finest baby clothes I’ve ever seen were made of qiviut.

The best part for tourists is that qiviut is 100% approved for export (unlike polar bear and seal products). Therefore, you can buy up all the qiviut accessories your heart desires. I bet you’ll be the warmest person on the street once you get home! You could also buy the yarn in spools and take it home to the knitter in your life.

Here are my favorite personal qiviut items – a hat handmade and purchased in Kangerlussuaq at the Niviarsiaq Uld shop, and wrist warmers handmade by my colleague’s teenage daughter in Nuuk.

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If you find yourself in Sisimiut one day admiring a woman’s beautifully-woven qiviut scarf, chances are you just might be taking a tip from the local who knows very best.

Read more on Greenland.com about Anita Høegh of Sisimiut – the woman who pioneered the muskox wool industry in Greenland and changed how Greenlanders do warm!

Cooking Suaasat, a Traditional Greenlandic Seal Soup Recipe

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When life gives you a bag of seal meat, make suaasat!

Suaasat is a traditional soup whose main ingredient is seal meat. It looks heartier than any stew I’ve ever seen and packs a distinct flavor punch like Arctic blood.

Many will say it is “old Greenland” food, and that’s probably true. I don’t think I’ve ever seen suaasat served in a restaurant, which would surely opt for a more modern carpaccio preparation instead. Not to mention, it most likely would not be the top seller on the menu as people who have not grown up with the tradition tend to think it’s an… acquired taste.

But I like it, and I approach suaasat like its French cousin, the Vichyssoise. Just because you don’t eat it on the daily doesn’t mean you cannot know how to make it.

So when some fresh seal meat more or less fell into my lap one day, I think my inner Inuit chef was screaming my name.

How does seal meat fall into one’s lap?

There’s a whole Facebook group dedicated to buying and selling things in Nuuk – clothes, housewares, skis, boats, puppies, and even food goods. I saw that my friend/colleague put up for sale bags of seal meat that her boyfriend had caught himself, so I jumped on the chance to buy some. If you’re not a hunter yourself, one usually just buys seal meat at Kalaaliaraq, the fresh Greenlandic market in city center, but it’s much more fun to get it from someone you know!

I wasn’t totally sure what use I would put my seal meat to, until an opportunity presented itself to learn how to make suaasat. So one evening, my American friend and I made ourselves cozy while her Greenlandic husband taught us about this recipe.

Suaasat Recipe

Cookware:

1 large stock pot
1 slotted spoon
1 shallow bowl

Ingredients:

1-1,5 kg (2-3 lb) seal meat, bone in
cold water
salt and pepper, to taste
4-5 handfuls white rice
1 large white onion, chopped
5-6 potatoes
spicy mustard

Directions:

Trim excess fat from the seal meat, leaving some on for flavor.

Fill a stock pot 2/3 full with cold water and place seal into the water.
Season with salt and pepper, and bring to a boil for 30 minutes. You will notice how the water almost instantly takes on the dark color of the meat.
The blood and fat from the seal will rise to the surface and create a foamy layer. Stir occasionally.

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Add the rice and onion to the boiling pot and continue to boil for 10 minutes.

Add the potatoes and continue to boil for 20 minutes.

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After approximately 1 hour total cooking time, the suaasat should be ready. Using a slotted spoon, remove the seal from the pot and place into a shallow serving dish. Serve the soup alongside the meat, and with mustard on the side.

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Takanna!

(That’s Greenlandic for Dig in!)

Kaffemik Culture in Greenland

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Photo taken 6 April 2015 at the kaffemik celebrating my friend’s daughter’s confirmation.

Kaffemik in Greenland is the ultimate in social gatherings. “Come glad and eat cake” the invitation says, but it is what the invitation does not say which makes kaffemik more of a social staple than just a fun get-together. 

Good things to eat and drink are the common ground that brings community members together under the same roof and to the same table, but the root of kaffemik is a solidification of one’s bond to the celebrated one.

Kaffemik happens all year round to celebrate birthdays, graduations, marriages, holidays, and more. Here is an example of a beautiful kaffemik invitation to celebrate Confirmation. Written in Danish, translated to English below.

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“Dear [Names],

It would be my great pleasure that you all come and celebrate my confirmation with me and my family.

I am holding my own open house on my Confirmation Day. 

Come and enjoy good food such as reindeer that I have shot myself and lovely accompaniments.

There will, of course, also be a lot of coffee & tea and tons of cakes.

19 April 2015 from 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM.

[Address]

Kind regards,

Manu”

Read more about Kaffemik in Greenland in this article in the Visit Greenland June newsletter.

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Handmade Sealskin Crafts in Greenland, Part 2

Never Too Much of a Good Thing

After writing Part 1 about handmade sealskin crafts this morning (a short How-To on making a decorative sash out of sealskin, with a sweet personal story behind it) I inspired myself so much that I used a few more hours today to play around with the material and see what I could come up with!

My pride and joy was this beauty – a mobile phone pouch 🙂 It is obviously fashionable as it is made of 100% fantastic red sustainable Greenlandic sealskin, and I embellished it with a cut-out of an Ulo (a woman’s knife / a classic Greenlandic symbol).

What’s more is, this phone pouch is actually a highly functional piece! In winter, the temperatures in Greenland can reach -30*C / -22*F. Such extreme temperatures have strong effects on technology like mobile phones, cameras, etc., and more than once my iPhone has shut off due to cold temperatures, even with a full battery! So this phone pouch serves to insulate a phone and protect it from extreme temperatures.

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Other Loot

The Ulo cut-out negatives from my phone pouch gave me a pair of small Ulos that I could well imagine turning into a pair of dangling earrings.

I also tried creating a bracelet. What started as an idea for a solid Cuff turned into this whimsical buckle-design bracelet. The fur on the strap faces a different direction than the fur on the square piece, creating a bit of texture with the opposing fur grains.

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With a creative mind, the possibilities are endless. What will you create today?