Faces of Sisimiut
In the middle of snowy mountains and freezing sea is the port city of Sisimiut. There lives less than 6000 people, but it’s still the second largest city in Greenland. Locals are balancing between old traditions, tourism and their own passions. Dog sledding, hunting, fishing and traditional handcrafts are interesting parts of the culture of Sisimiut and Greenland, but these are also a lifeline for the people.
Sisimiut, Greenland 2022
Many young men become fishermen following in the footsteps of their fathers. Lassa, Malik, Konrad and the youngest Salik have been partners for 5 years now. Normally in spring they’re fishing snow crabs.Salik is 17 years old, and he’s studying at college in Denmark. He was building himself a new better future as many other greenlandic young people. First he only helped fishermen at the harbour every summer when he spent holidays at home. Now Salik wants to be a fisherman too. This is something he does best, and he’s happy with it.
Weather decides when anyone can go to the sea. In spring the sun is shining from the clear blue sky, but it’s still very windy at the sea. This kind of weather allows to calculate traps and sail for about 5 hours. In the team, older people teach Salik how to work. There’s not many schools for it. So he learns everything while doing and sailing at sea.
19 years ago Maria moved to Greenland from Indonesia. Her mother took care of her three daughters. She left for a new country and started work at a Thai restaurant. She wanted a better standard of living in the north, but she was surprised how difficult it was to adapt to the new culture. She didn’t speak Danish or Greenlandic. She was close to giving up, but then she found the father of her future son.
Maria learned danish from newspapers and magazines. At work, she talked with locals and got to know them. Slowly, she learned to love her new home country, all the people and nature. She was raising her son Nikolai alone when the daughters moved in to her one by one around 2006.
Maria has a higher education in marketing and her dream was to start her own restaurant. Eventually, in 2009 she started her on grill called Maria’s Grill. Couple years later she unfortunately had to give up because she wanted to take better care of his son. Own company takes a lot of time and wanted to put family before everything.
2 years ago last kid Nikolai moved away from Sisimiut. Maria stayed to live with her boyfriend Keld. Maria is thinking to move to Denmark. Maybe one day but right now she still has peace at her home Sisimiut. She feels like she need that peace..
The workroom for artists from Sisimiut is located right next to the harbour. Many craft artists don’t speak english or even danish. One of those is Enok. Like others, he sculpts jewellery and ornaments from the horn of reindeer and musk ox. The same souvenirs which local hotels and tourist shops sell.
When Enok was young he was a fisherman, but then he realized that he loves handcraft. He became interested in crafts when he saw his uncle working with horns and making traditional greenlandic jewelry. He was fascinated by how many beautiful things his uncle can make out of a horn.
Enok practiced to make tupilaks, earrings, necklaces and statues. Something for tourists and something for local people. Enok doesn’t have any education so all he knows is he learned by doing.
Enok has been working in the workroom for 30 years now. He has the best desk in the house right next to the window. He can see straight into the harbour when the tourist ships arrive, and then he needs to be ready to sell. He gets better money by selling himself before tourists can get to the hotel.
In Sisimiut there is a dog town of over 1500 dogs. Niels learned everything about dog sledding from his father. It’s important to know how to train dogs, the best ways to hunt reindeer and how to survive in the middle of nowhere. Often she wanted to skip school so he could go with his father to the dog town. Father was absolutely unconditional that first school and then dogs.
Now Niels is 35 years old and he can’t imagine his life without dogs. He keeps traditions alive offering dog sledding to tourists and training himself. He used to participate in dog sledding competitions all over Greenland and usually he won them. Nowadays he has a 3 years old son, who Niels want to give his all attention.
Niels works at a service centre for the handicaps. He uses his dogs to activate especially young people. He takes children on a dog sled and teaches the same things which he learned from his father.
Niels has 23 dogs. They have their own order of precedence and the first dog in the sled is the leader. The dog must always prove its strength by fighting with others. Nunnu is already 5 years old, but still hasn’t lost.