A Story for Greenlanders Today

01-08 2012


One Friday in July, the musical drama Qullissara premiered in the former settlement of Qullissat, a coal mining town founded to exploit the national resources of Disko Island. The settlement has now been abandoned for 40 years. Storyteller Makka Kleist was born and raised in Qullissat and Qullissara is her take on the painful story of her now deserted hometown.

The premiere could not have taken place in more appropriate surroundings than in Qullissat’s old village hall, whose walls right up to 1972 echoed from the beautiful songs played by the local musicians on Hawaiian guitar and Stylophone.

Makka Kleist was born and raised in Qullissat and deported from the settlement 40 years ago. She firmly believes that the painful tale of a thriving mining town being closed down at the stroke of a pen by the government in Copenhagen carries an important message for today's Greenlanders.

- Qullissat have had such a great importance for the history of our country. Our development in the fields of culture, music and even the labour movement would have happened considerably slower had it not been for Qullissat. There was a very strong sense of unity there, maybe due to the fact that everybody came from all over Greenland and even from abroad.

Qullissara tells the story about life in this melting pot - for better or worse. Makka Kleist hopes for the cultural diversity of Qullissat to be visible when the theatre concert will be showcasing throughout Greenland this fall.

- First and foremost, people will hopefully have a wonderful hour of good music. But I also hope that especially the young people will get a glimpse into our history. For it was not only in Qullissat that these random deportations and depopulations were happening. It was visible all along the coast in the sixties and seventies. Many small settlements were forcibly closed and deserted. That trauma is evident in many people today, says Makka Kleist.

The music is the heart of the show. Some of today's best singers - Mike Fencker Thomsen, Kimmernaq Kjeldsen and Pilu Noahsen together with a swinging band of young musicians, provide fresh versions of the popular sixties Vaigat music - with lyrics that are still cherished today.

- They wrote great lyrics back then. They could phrase "love" and "lost" in so many ingenious ways. Our language was used in a completely different way back then. And the lyrics were overflowing with beautiful imagery about love and life, concludes Makka Kleist of Greenland's National Theatre (see tour dates here).

Thanks to Karsten Sommer of the Greenlandic Broadcasting Cooperation. Read the article in the original Danish here.