FAROE ISLANDS, DENMARK,
1995 ANTHROPOLOGICAL RESEARCH PROJECT
by Franco Pelliccioni
UNDER THE FOLLOWING HIGH PATRONAGES:
ROYAL EMBASSY OF DENMARK, ITALIAN NAVAL GENERAL STAFF, ITALIAN GEOGRAPHICAL SOCIETY
With a grant from the Italian Foreign Office and a SAS (Scandinavian Air System) Sponsorship
The analysys of the communities will privilege four main fields: a) the economic sector (development). The undersigned will take care of the fishing activity (inland, deep sea, fish farming and grindadrap) and the related fish plant processes; the history of Faroese Cultural Change, from a farming economy to a fishing economy,which started not before the beginning of the XIX century; boat-building; woollen industry; tourism; b) persistence of an old Viking language and of the relevant rich oral literature; c) man-environment relation; d) the really interesting, from a scientific point of view, demographic trend towards a Faroese population increase (at least since the middle of the XIX° century), respect to the generally, worldwide, decrease of islands populations. The communities selected, according several socio-cultural characteristics, will be those of Torshavn and Vagur (Suduroy Island. Not having much time to spent in the islands - due to financial reasons-, the undersigned has to concentrate the survey to only two towns. As Tórshavn was obviously chosen as the Capital of the Faroe Archipelago, the other community has been pin pointed in the southern and distant fishing centre of Vágur, two hours ferry from Torshavn. Possibly some quick "side trips" of some ethno-anthropological interest should be carried out too in the islands of Stremoy and Suðuroy.
I wish to express my thanks to the people that made possible my work in the islands:
in Tórshavn: Lisbeth L.Petersen , Byraðsformaður ( Mayor); Eilif Samuelsen, Landsstýrismaður , Minister for Education, Energy and Environment and Jäkur Thorsteinssen, Director for Education and Culture; Beate L. Jensen, future Chief-Editor of the Dimmalætting (newspaper, founded 1877); Jan Mortensen, Director of the Faroe Islands Tourist Bureau;; Tróndur Djurhuus, General Manager of SVF, the Faroese Television; Per Hansen, Technical Manager of the Faroe Islands Tourist Board; Eyðfinnur Finnson, Advisor of the very important Fishery Department (he was the "number two"); Sister Frances, an English Sister belonging to the Ordine delle Missionarie Francescane di Maria (eightyfive years old, of which sixtyfive past in the Fær Øer, to whom go all my best thanks for the precious materiale archivistico on the islands that she presented to me), besides the Danish Catholic Deacon Christian Gabrielsen. At the end I want to express all my gratefulness and my heartily thanks to my "best man in the islands", a wonderful Faroese host, indeed!. Thanks to him and his daily job, my Faroese Research had so much success. I am talking about John Eysturoy, of the Faroe Islands Tourist Board. A very well known man in the whole archipelago. Already fisherman, football player, theatre actor, Faroese expert, besides to be precious public relations man with the mass media world. Thanks again, John!
in Vágur, situated in the southern island of Suðuroy: Jógvan Krosslá, Mayor; Hergeir Nielsen, Teacher, already Minister for Education and Traffic (1989-90) and Member of the Faroese Parlament, besides to be President of the International Affairs Commission ( 1984-1994); Ditlev Hammer (of Hov), farmer , belonging to the Faroese Nationalist Party; Kãri Poulsen, fisherman and his wife, Mary Krosslá; Jan Allan Müller, professional football player in Denmark; Suni ã Dalbø and his Danish wife, Anne Dalbø, both university students (Master) of the Danish University of Aalborg; besides to Jøgvan Nolsøe (of Klaksvik); the elder Asbjorn Jacobsen (the "historical community memory") and his wife Kaja Olsen.
and in Copenaghen-Roskilde-Lejre: Ole Dziegel, Marketingschef, Roskilde-Egnens Turistbureau;Laila Jurs Jensen, Marketing Manager of the Wonderful Copenaghen Convention and Visitors Bureau; Lars Schaldemose of the Danish Tourist Board; the Director of the Arp-Hansen Hotel Group; Prof. Angelo Carriere, Director of the Italian Cultural Institute; Tryggvi Johansen, Head of the Faroese Representation; Mr. Ørhuus, of the Management of Nationalmuseet; Mette Olsen, Historian of the Historical Archaelogical Experimental Center .
2005 "Un'oasi artica dove gli impiegati si licenziano per tornare in mare. Le capitali nordatlantiche della pesca: Tórshavn, nelle isole Fær Øer", L'Osservatore Romano, 5 agosto, 3
2004 "La pirateria nelle isole Fær Øer" Rivista Marittima, CXXXVII, gennaio, 198-202
2004 "In mezzo all'Atlantico in balia dei pirati. Un viaggio nella storia tormentata delle isole danesi Fær Øer", L'Osservatore Romano, 17 settembre, 3
2003 "Navi, strumenti nautici, arpioni e vecchie fotografie raccontano l'eroica lotta per la sopravvivenza degli "agricoltori con le barche". Il museo marittimo di Tórshavn, nelle isole Fær Øer", L'Osservatore Romano, 27 settembre, 3
2001 "Dopo 150 anni dall'Irlanda all'isola di Terranova sulla rotta di san Brandano. Negli anni '70 fu compiuta una spedizione a bordo di un'imbarcazione ricostruita secondo le tecniche del tempo", L'Osservatore Romano, 12 Maggio, 3.
2000 "Un'affascinante nicchia linguistica e culturale dove sopravvive l'antica lingua vichinga. Le Fær Øer: remoto arcipelago dell'Atlantico settentrionale rimasto sostanzialmente isolato dal resto del mondo ", L'Osservatore Romano, 9-10 October, 18
"Archipelagos in Comparison: Sea-ones (Fær Øer, Denmark) and Earth-ones (Carnia- Friuli- Italy); Islands in Comparison: Sea-one (Mykines), Earth-one (Sauris). an Ethno-Anthropological Approach to Two Cultural Distances", paper read at the International Seminar: "Two Distant Regions Compared", held at the Danish Academy in Rome (Det Danske Institut for Videnskab Og Kunst I Rom), October 21, 1997
(The idea suggested to me by the Danish Academy in Rome: to compare the far away situation of the Faroe Islands, there, in the Northern sector of the Atlantic (far away from our Mediterranean setting, but far from Denmark, too) - with a similar or, at least, in some ways comparable-one: from an historical, political, ethnical, geographical, economical points of view [taking in due course any possible differentiations and variations], was really very interesting and stimulating. As anthropologists (comparison is a fundamental part of the Method of the Anthropological Sciences!), we are well prepare to compare cultural realities belonging to more or less distant societies of the world. So I have had the wonderful and amazing opportunity to introduce in this paper the up-to-date situation of Carnia, a small region of the Alps, in North-Eastern Italy. If in the Faroe Archipelago I carried out in 1995 a socio-cultural survey, a supposed short visit to Carnia, in the summer 1996, resulted at the end (as intensity, massive observations, great amount of data collected, the several concerned people approached -local historians, ethnologists, so-called key-informers: old people, and so on- ) as an unexpected, also if very informal, cultural survey of that beautiful Italian northern region. And the task to compare these two worlds worked very well. It deepens itself the more I went through the relevant literature, when I started at home to prepare the paper. And easily I went through things, situations, "valley and sea islands" histories. So here we may speak of two Archipelagos and two islands at the mirror: sea-ones (Faroes and Mikines), land-ones (Carnia and Sauris). To better compare both realities, I have singled out some useful indicators or problematic areas. Some of these "keys" are of minor value. Some work for both cultures. Others only for one of the two cultural worlds. But the possible comparisons (and of course, differentiations) between the two "archipelagos" are many. I will just write down some of them, one after the other, in no chronological or importance order: isolation; transport and communication difficulties, in general; presence and persistence in the centuries of their own languages; poverty and past deprivation; emigrations (during the past, and today); same demographic consistency; Great Communities Crisis, of yesterday and today; importance and vitality of their specific cultural traditions; economies connected to the habitat (with the minor, but for this not so less important, contemporary presence of trølls and sbilfs). An then: strong relation Man-Environment; persistence of a rich spontaneous architectural apparatus; strong community identities; administrative autonomies; farming; climatic similarities: heavy rainfalls; tendency towards the growing up of a sort of selected tourism; strong presence of oral tradition and of "evening fire tales", as ways to transmit (especially during the near past) to the incoming new generations cultural elements and folk-lore. The paper has the following basic structure: a) an historical, geo-climatical, administrative, ethno-anthropological and linguistic introduction to the Faroe Islands and Carnia; b) the singling-out of the ethno-cultural identities of the two communities: Faroes, a small community-nation; Carnia, a strong regional identity. c) the two communities amid tradition and change: the Faroes: the bygd and the traditional self-sufficient community economy (fishing, farming, cultivation, fowling, grindadrap). The changing economy connected to: 1) the sea: deep fishing, ship-building; 2) tending towards the new frontiers of tourism; Carnia: a moderm post-industrial economy which keeps still strong ties with the mountain habitat: wood industry and handicraft, farming, cultivations; but is tending towards a stronger touristic development; d) the Great Faroe Crisis of the '90s and emigration. Carnia, Land of centuries old temporary and permanent emigration (till the '60s and '70s); e) two case studies in comparison: the isolated communities of Mykines (Faroes) and Sauris (Carnia). In this short summary I should add something more about the last section of the paper. I have naturally thought that, for euristic reasons, but also to better understand each situation, it was necessary to focus here some more details of the two situations. As we have just seen, our two "worlds", the Atlantic- one, and the Alpine-one, are enough comparable between them according what represents their main characteristic: isolation in the course of ages. So, in bringing, within the discussion, selected pieces of different cultural realities, and in trying to focuse them, is has been a manner, according me, to try to reach a greater comprehensive picture of the entire frame. Isulation has strongly affected both the communities of the sea-island of Mykines and of the valley (land-island) of Sauris. And just for this reason, it has been practically impossible for me to reach that Faroe island, but not Sauris. Both places are heavily menaced by strong depopulation. Both are looking in a future selected tourism a new chance to survive. Both are still experiencing a strong relation man-environment based upon respect. So strong is this attitude that nature in Mykines must be still be valued in all its great importance! Both communities have complied totally with their traditional patterns of spontaneous architectures. Perhaps more than other places, in the Faroes, as in Carnia. Both their peoples may tell outsiders their long, dramatic, life histories. Made of hardship for islanders and "somari" (donkeys) - the Sauris men-, dangerous work (especially for the Mykines islanders and fishermen). Both have experienced weeks, sometimes, months or no contact at all with the outside world. Moreover, it should be also said, Sauris it is, not only an "island" and highland (the highest hamlet is located 1400 metres above sea level) within the archipelago Carnia: in its turn made of several, little or wide, valleys, places, towns, villages, within the Friuli region. Sauris represents an ethno-cultural and linguistic separatness from any other parts of Carnia, too. Because it is a German-speaking community, founded in the XIII century from Bavarian farmers. And the place was reached by a military road for the first time in the history only during the Great War. A normal road was builded in 1934. Because the four villages, who made this community, were so poor and so unimportant that they couldn't afford, not even with an outside help, the costs of a road)
1997 "Il Museo Marittimo (Batasavnið ) di Tórshavn, Isole Fær Øer Danimarca)", Notiziario della Marina, XLIII, 10, October, 44-45
1996 "La spedizione del Brendan", Rivista Marittima, CXXIX, July, 193-195
1996 "Fær Øer. Storia e religiosità di uno sperduto lembo di terra. Nell'Ottocento una "missione" accoglieva i marinai cattolici di passaggio nelle isole", L'Osservatore Romano, 13 March, 3
1996 "Fær Øer. Storia e leggenda di uno sperduto lembo di terra. La "Roykstova" è la più antica costruzione in legno del mondo", L'Osservatore Romano, 9 March, 3
1996 "Fær Øer. Storia e leggenda di uno sperduto lembo di terra. Le isole atlantiche scoperte da un monaco irlandese", L'Osservatore Romano, 25 February, 3
1996 "La grave crisi della pesca nelle isole Fær Øer (Danimarca)", Rivista Marittima, CXXIX, June, 188-190
1996 "Nel paese dai tetti di prato che ondeggiano al vento: le isole Føroyar (Fær Øer), ultimo segreto d'Europa", L'Universo, LXXVI, 5, September-October, 596-616
(The Author here outlines a broad picture of the geo-historical, environmental, cultural, linguistic and economic situation of the Faroe Islanders. These little known fishermen communities are, according the very well famous Icelander scholar Magnus Magnusson, the pure-bred descendants of the Vikings who arrived there in the IXth century. Not even fifty thousands people live in this wild, but wonderful archipelago, made up by vulcano lands, steep mountains and absolutely no trees at all. Anyhow its "unique" and various landscape, and the hospitality of the Faroese people are almost unforgettable. The islands lie just in the middle of Northern Atlantic, south east from Iceland, and form an autonomous region within the Kingdom of Denmark. Several and important are the fields of the Faroese world which deserve a special attention to the anthropologist. First of all the ability to preserve in the course of ages, notwithstanding the presence of a "foreigner" Danish Rule (for history, language and culture), their own language (similar to Norwegian Landsmal and to Icelandic) and culture. This is especially due also to a long-time secluded situation that affected, not only each community and every island from the other villages and isles, but the whole archipelago, too, in comparison with the European continent. Till the 1856 the islands were practically "closed" to the outside, due to the Crown commercialy monopoly ( and centuries before to a private monopoly). So the very few islanders were able to keep up with most of their Viking traditions (also if they had faced some natural changes during the time). Many of their interesting cultural elements are arriving quite untouched at the end of the Second Millennium . Apart the language, it is possible to mention here: their ballads and chain dances; the "model"of the Faroese village, with their wood and coloured houses with turfed roofs; the building of special " long rowing-boats", very similar in shape (and results) to the Viking models; the very old tradition of a community whale-hunting, the grindadrap. Besides all there is to underline that each Faroese feels himself belonging strongly to only one community. So, to speak about the cultural identity of Faroe islanders, it is necessary to refer to a Nation-Community, or to a community wide as the whole Nation. This is just one of the first results coming from the Author's anthropological survey. There is still to add that, always due to the centuries old general isolation of the islands, only since the 1850' the islanders, who for long time were basically farmers "with boats", slowly turned their economy to fishing, and fishing is, from the end of Second World War, the mainstay of Faroese economy. In the last few years the archipelago has however faced an economical crisis, due to the reduced returns caused by previous years overfishing. Now the islanders are struggling hard to keep in full control of it )
1995 "La pesca è l'"oro" di un popolo che discende dai Vichinghi. Viaggio nelle diciotto isole dell'arcipelago delle Fær Øer", L'Osservatore Romano, 21 December, 3
It has been writing on the Faroe Project:
-Italskur antropologur vitjar í løtuni, by Beate L. Jensen, Dimmalætting (Torshavn),1 August 1995, 1 and 11
From the Dimmalætting Photo: Interviewing in the Dimmalætting Office (Torshavn),
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