In November 2013 Carnivore Center Gronklitt in Sweden presented their project Bear and Natives - Traditional knowledge among Natives - at the Northern Forum General Assembly in Moscow. The project involves indigenous people in the north including, Evenks, Samis, Inuits and Alutiiq, who for thousands of years have lived close to wildlife and bears. They have been self-sufficient and fully dependent on the natural world.
Traditional knowledge about bears, wildlife, fishing, sewing and more has been passed down from generation to generation by having the youths learn from their elders while participating in the daily routines. Today, this traditional way of life and source of knowledge is threatened by influences from modern society.
With the project Bear and Natives, that is a part of Northern Forum work, we want to highlight the importance of maintaining the traditional knowledge of the native peoples in north. The project will entail different activities such as exhibitions, youyh exchange, festivals and workshops. This passed summer the first exhibition has been presented at the Carnivore Center Gronklitt in Sweden.
The history of the Inuits on Greenland, told in a new way
Greenland has for hundreds of years been a part of Denmark. Since 1953 they have become more and more independent. The National Museum in Copenhagen showcases a lot of knowledge and exhibitions regarding the history of Greenland. The prehistory of Greenland has been documented by archeologists, researchers and travellers, and the museum has throughout the years received a lot of historical items from the thousands of years of life on Greenland. Because of excavations, research, documentation etc the museum has attained a very good academical knowledge based on the history of Greenland.
Inuit artist Nuka Godtfredsen
The chance to present academical knowledge in a new way occured when Inuit artist Nuka Godtfredsen came into contact with the museum. An idea was born to ask Nuka to illustrate the importance of Bears in early Inuit life and history. He presented one illustration that said more than thousands of words”. This contact ended up with a cooperation between Nuka and the Museum. He has now made two books ”The first Step” and ”The Ermine”, where he has illustrated what life may have been like on Greenland, starting from 5000 years ago.
He uses cartoon-style illustrations as his medium, but they are all scientifically valid and are based on historical science from excavations, etc. This way of presenting historical science is quite unique, and now other museums in the world wish to follow in the footsteps of the National Museum of Denmark in the same way.
Exhibition Ukaleq in Gronklitt
Anders Bjorklund, CEO of the Carnivore Center in Gronklitt and responsible for the project Bear and Natives in north, notes that ”making an exhibition around the amazing work done at the museum and illustrated by Nuka is fascinating”. His illustrations of history reaches all people from children to adult researchers. Reading the books and the stories gives you a good view of how life might have been like thousands of years ago. You feel familiar with the characters you meet in his books and for our project it is very interesting to follow the way they lived and looked at Polar Bears. The bears were considered holy and the Inuits wanted to get power and knowledge from the bears. Among many natives in Scandinavia, Alaska, Greenland and Siberia, the relationship to bears has taken a near-religious expression.”
Artwork as a part of science
In our project Bear and Natives we have observed among many different native groups that they are losing their history. Their traditional way of life and traditional knowledge is slowly being eroded by the pressure of the modern world. Anders says that ”it is fascinating to see how science has opened its doors to artists and let Nuka come into the scientific world. Through the work done in Copenhagen, the history of Greenland reaches everyone on Greenland, and the two books are already being used as school material. In the exhibition at Gronklitt parts of his work has been shown. Hopefully the exhibition that is produced can go on a world tour later on.
Polar Bear Spirit Nuka 2 - The first Nuka illustration about the Inuits relation to Polar Bears that was the start of his book project.
1898 - At the exhibition in Gronklitt. Some of the illustrations about Inuits on Greenland made by Nuka Godtfredsen
1930 - At the exhibition in Gronklitt. Sami Marika Renhuvud, the model Ukaleq, designer Ingvor Ljung that participated in Moscow who has made the Ukaleq model and she works for Carnivore Center Gronklitt.
1945 - Ukaleq
CEO Carnivore Center Gronklitt Sweden