Petite-fille de l’ours (Danemark)

Human resonances

"My mother comes from Qaqortoq, a town in southern Greenland, the fourth largest town with just over 3,000 inhabitants. She was born in 1961 into a poor family and came to live in Denmark with a Danish family when she was only 11 years old. It was quite common at that time for children to come here for their education.

Mais ça a été une grande épreuve. Ma mère – comme tant d’autres – a vécu un véritable déracinement et elle a dû se confronter au racisme omniprésent des danois envers les groenlandais. À l’époque, elle s’est vue interdire de parler sa langue et de fréquenter d’autres groenlandais par sa famille d’accueil qui, suivant les directives gouvernementales, pensait sincèrement ainsi œuvrer au mieux à son intégration. Elle a été – elle est encore – très en colère et révoltée de cette acculturation.

When I was 17, my mother wanted to return to Greenland. She stayed there for two years, but felt too out of place and moved back to Denmark. Later she met a German man, and here I am!

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  • Today I work in the social sector, I go on patrols in Copenhagen to help people who are on the streets. Greenlanders are overrepresented.
  • As a child I remember meeting my grandmother: she came to visit us here. I remember the hugs and kisses and laughter, but we couldn't really communicate: my mother had never spoken to me in her native language. So now I'm taking lessons in Kalaallisut, the Greenlandic Inuit language; it reconnects me with my roots.
  • I went to Greenland twice. The first time I was a baby, I don't remember. And then two years ago, in the summer of my 17th birthday. It was an incredible trip, very emotional. My cousin made me try on her traditional national costume. I saw myself as Greenlandic and I felt like a queen, really! I am very attached to the jewellery I brought back from there, it speaks to me about my identity.
  • At school, children often made fun of me because I am typical, they saw an Inuit face. For example, following the widespread idea here that all Greenlanders are alcoholics, they would ask me if I drink beer. I was 10 years old... But racism has always crept up on me: my mother instilled in me the strength and pride of my origins. And then, I tell myself that she paid the heaviest price."
  • Lena Kista Abelsen Interview in Copenhagen, May 2020