Maybe Tomorrow/Immaqa Aqagu - photography by Tiina Itkonen
9 September – 8 November 2008
See: Opening times for the exhibition and the Museum
Tiina Itkonen (b. 1968) lives and works in Helsinki where she studied photography at the University of Art and Design. Winner of Finnish Young Photographer of the Year in 2003 and a Fotofinlandia finalist in 2004, Itkonen has been photographing the people of Northwest Greenland for the past ten years.
Exhibiting in Finland and abroad since 1996, Itkonen's work has most recently been seen in Zurich at Galerie Kashya Hildebrand, in Frankfurt at the Synart Art Gallery, and at the Finnish-Norwegian Culture Institute, Oslo. Her photographs are held in collections at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Fundacio Foto Colectania in Barcelona, Helsinki City Art Museum, the Finnish State Art Collection, DZ Bank in Germany and the Saastamoinen Foundation Art Collection/EMMA, among many others.
Itkonen's landscape photography is currently on display at Michael Hoppen Contemporary, London, 20 August – 7 October 2008. For more details and for information how to purchase limited edition prints from both of these exhibitions, see www.michaelhoppengallery.com.
"The Arctic has fascinated explorers, adventurers, traders and whalers ever since ancient times. And since the beginning of the 1990s, I have been searching for my own Ultima Thule, my place in the Far North. I was enchanted by the story of the Mother of the Sea and, in 1995, it inspired me to set off for the place where the story originated in Greenland. My search for the Mother of the Sea took me to the Polar Eskimos of the northernmost part of Greenland. The lack of haste, the friendliness of the people, the silence of the glaciers and the peace of the landscape compelled me to return to Northwest Greenland in 1998 and 2002.
These memories take me back to Thule, to Northwest Greenland. When I close my eyes I am in Thule, and the silence is perfect. Blueish light dances across the snow; the icebergs glow turquoise. The silence is broken by a loud crack. An iceberg splits, creating new, smaller icebergs. In an instant, the light transforms the landscape from beautifully mellow to frighteningly sombre. In Thule there are no roads that I could take to get away. I follow my own paths. In Thule there are no trees: I can see the horizon far off in all directions. I am incapable of judging distances. I am not used to seeing this far.
Here everything happens immaqa aqagu – maybe tomorrow. And again the next day, they say immaqa aqagu. Polar Eskimos live according to the weather and the seasons. If the weather permits, the men set out to hunt, while their families may travel to a neighbouring village to visit relatives – even in the middle of the night. Nobody is in any hurry anywhere. There is as much time to do things as they require. There is also time for other people. They visit each other, play cards, mend hunting gear, sew fur clothes, do beadwork, play the organ or just are. And nor is there any need to talk; you can simply be quiet. During the four-month 'day', there is really no need to sleep, since you get a lot of sleep during the four-month 'night'.
On my first trip, it was hard to get to know people, because I did not speak the Polar Eskimo language. I learned some simple phrases about the weather from an English-Greenlandic dictionary. I could say sila nuanneq – beautiful weather – or issippoq – it is cold. My Greenlandic vocabulary expanded rapidly when I lived with people. On my second and third trips, I was able to talk about subjects other than the weather.
The polar-bear scalp I was given by Taateraaq takes my thoughts to Savissivik. Hunting trips with a dogsled, spending the night in a tent on the edge of a glacier, catching little auks with a net on the slopes of a mountain, walks on the ice in the morning sun, taking part in a dogsled race, football matches in soft snow, a skiing competition without ski poles – all unforgettable experiences.
Now and then, I hear news from Thule. Juulut rings from Qaanaaq and tells me when the first snow is falling and whether you can drive a dogsled across the ice. I also get to hear when Aqatannguaq from the neighbouring village has a birthday or when Taateraaq, the oldest person in Savissivik, has come on a visit to Qaanaaq. E-mail messages from the villages tell me that life goes on as before.
On my first trip to Greenland, I was told I would definitely be coming back. According to a Greenlandic tale, a human being can turn into a qivigtoq, run around the fells, live there and finally die there. My desire to return to Greenland goes beyond reason. On my third trip there I tried to shake off this 'madness' and leave it wandering in the northern landscapes, like a qivigtoq. I did not succeed."