My Greenlandic Family by Camilla Stephan

On 5 May 1953, in the northernmost Greenland, a little girl is born.

She grows up in a small artic Eskimo society, with her mum, step-dad and three older brothers. They live as hunters in houses made of stones and soil, without commodities such as water and electricity.

As a young girl she meets a man who is employed at the Danish weather station nearby her village. Despite the official prohibition against mingling with the locals, their different cultural backgrounds and their difficulties communicating, they fall in love. Sixteen-years-old, she boards a small vessel heading for Denmark. The journey is extremely rough and after 50 days she arrives to Denmark pregnant and not able to speaking Danish. It turns out that she has left country, family and identity behind for good. She never moves back to Greenland, but spends the rest of her life in Denmark. Her three brothers stayed in Greenland and established their own family. On the 20th of April 2006 she dies in Denmark among her Danish family.

The baby girl was my grandmother and these photographs are my story of the family she left behind. My Greenlandic family, their community and their country. They live in the northernmost city in the world called Qaanaaq, with 650 inhabitants.

The curiosity towards my family, their harsh conditions of life and the artic climate has always felt strong in my veins. I had planned the trip to Qaanaaq but unfortunately my grandmother died before I could tell her about it. I brought some of her hair with me to the grave of her mother. And flying back to Denmark my camera bag had several pieces of Greenlandic granite to place at her grave.

As a child I visited Qaanaaq twice. The first time at the age of 2 and then again at the age of 11.  In May 2006 I was 24 and felt lucky to spend three weeks with my family. It became a trip full of joys and sorrows but more than everything it gave me a chance to get to know my Greenlandic family.

21 images in total


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