Debate over statue relocation in Greenland | Polarjournal
The statue of Hans Egede currently stands on a rock near the famous Church of the Redeemer, the Cathedral of Nuuk. The mayor’s idea is to place the statue in a less prominent and conspicuous place. Photo: Svickova, Wikipedia

In the Arctic regions, too, the debate about racism and the unequality treatments of indigenous peoples has been going on for months. This has also led to a debate on the historical reappraisal of the colonisation of the regions. Also in Greenland, where the statue of a Danish missionary was recently subject to a colour attack in the capital Nuuk just before the national holiday. The mayor of Nuuk, Charlotte Ludvigsen, has now initiated a debate on the relocation of the statue and wants to canvass the entire population of the capital.

The Social Democrat politician, who is a member of the Inuit Ataqatigiit party, had opened the debate some time ago and launched a consultation procedure to canvass the public. To this end, the administration has issued a roadmap for how the citizens of Nuuk can express their opinion on the possible relocation of the statue. The public can have a say either via online voting or by letter. It is particularly important for local government that the elderly and children should also be involved in the process. After all, these are also parts of social life. It is particularly important for children to “participate in the process as citizens with regard to children’s rights,” as the administration writes on its website. Charlotte Ludvigsen, who also heads the municipal administration “Kommuneqarfik Sermersooq”, wants a decision that is as broad-based as possible.

“The debate is now underway and we want to hear what the public thinks about the statue as long as the subject is still hot.”

Charlotte Ludvigsen, Mayor of Nuuk
The young Social Democrat politician became head of the local government of Sermersooq just under a year ago and thus mayor of Nuuk. She is a member of the Inuit Ataqatigiit party, whose goal is a stronger and more independent Greenland. Photo: Sermersooq press kit

But the politician’s actions do not meet with approval everywhere, especially in regard to the timetable. For example, Siumut Nuuk, the local branch of the Siumut party, has called for an extension of the consultation period in order to give more citizens, especially the elderly, time to deal with the vote and register. At present, the period is three weeks and this is also maintained, according to Charlotte Ludvigsen. She thinks that an extension to three months would put the debate on the line. “The debate is now underway and we want to hear what the public thinks about the statue as long as the subject is still hot,” she told Sermitsiaq newspaper. This approach has led her to critics for wanting to use the issue for her own benefit.

“If a large majority wants the statue to be in a different place, we will include it.”

Charlotte Ludvigsen, Mayor of Nuuk

But Ludvigsen waved off and said in an interview with the newspaper: “We start with the survey, so that we get the opinion of the citizens about the location of the statue. If a large majority wants the statue to be in a different place, we will include it.” When asked what a large majority was, she said about 75 percent. At present (as of 9 July), however, 493 citizens are in favour of remaining, only 318 in favour of relocation. Nuuk’s population is currently 17,984, while the municipality of Sermersooq, which also includes eastern Greenlandic communities, has a population of around 22,800.

The local government has drawn up a 4-point plan for the survey. The question is currently whether the statue should remain or be moved. This survey will continue until 21 July. Afterwards it will continue with the opinions on the new location and the redesign of the hill. All answers will then be evaluated, presented and included in the decision. It will be published at the beginning of September. Photo: Sermersooq Local Government

In order to create the most transparent debate possible, the administration has drawn up a 4-point plan, in which citizens have three weeks to vote and later make proposals for the hill design and, if necessary, the new location of the statue. After that, the answers will be evaluated, the politicians will take the vote and the final decision will be published at the beginning of September. In addition to the information on the local government website, a dialogue meeting will also take place on 21 July, where people will be able to discuss their opinions, while a workshop on “Identity, our culture, history and future” will be held for young people and children in August. In doing so, the administration wants to strengthen Greenland’s identity. For many regions were first visited by Christian missionaries, who, in the eyes of experts, were the door openers for the cultural decline and loss of identity of the indigenous population of Greenland. And Hans Egede, who tried throughout his life to investigate and write down this Greenlandic identity, was just the first missionary on behalf of the Danish king in 1721. Nowadays, besides the statues and busts of Egede, there are also squares, hotels, geographical points and even ships with his name. Whether the current discussion will remain purely with statues remains to be seen, not only in Greenland.

Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal

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