the land of maybe
The small village of Gjógv is nestled in a valley in the mountains of the Faroe Islands. Many villages, such as this one, are home to no more than 100 people, often from the same family unit. This particular village has no grocery store or gas station — its only buildings that are not houses include an old church and an indoor fish farm. The country, a territory of Denmark, is nicknamed the “Land of Maybe,” due to its unpredictable weather. Much transportation, especially those who travel by ferry to get to work or fly into the islands, is dictated by the fog and rain, which will often appear without warning.
Children play on piles of ropes and nets as generations of Faroese people gather in a shipyard for the cutting and distributing of whale meat after the grindadráp in the town of Syðrugøtu. The grindadráp is a cultural event and considered a tradition to the Faroese. Both adults and young children gather to take part in the event.
Church-goers exit the chapel doors of Christianskirkja after service on Sunday in Klaksvik. Chiristianity is important to the people of the Faroe Islands, and the country is seen to be uniquely religious and conservative compared to the rest of Europe. Most Faroese people belong to the Lutheran church.
A Faroese woman stands in front of the harbor in Klaksvík as a rowing competition goes on in the water behind her. The sweater she is wearing is a traditional Faroese knit made by Guðrun and Guðrun, a local Faroese clothing store from Tórshavn. This particular sweater became very famous after being featured in the Danish TV crime drama, “The Killing.” Knitting is a part of the culture of the Faroe Islands due to the year-round chilly climate, and the knits have been passed down and are actually considered quite fashionable today.
Sam Gleðisheygg, 10, experiments with cutting whale blubber during a whale hunt, or grindadráp, in the village of Syðrugøtu in the Faroe Islands. Though children do not participate in the hunt, they often practice cutting out pieces of leftover whale. Later, their families will teach them how to actually kill the whale by quickly severing the spinal cord, then how to efficiently cut it up for meat.
Jóannes Heimustovu filets a fish in his home in Klaksvík after a successful fishing trip with his cousin’s husband, Josias Jacobsen. Heimustovu believes that a connection to one’s food is important and thinks it is good to know exactly where your food comes from and how it was prepared. “If you are living in a big city, the only thing you learn about is the right thing to do is go to the shop and buy beef and meat in the freezer,” said Heimustovu. “You are human and you’ve done nothing wrong. But I have been killing cows and am killing lambs. And I am never happy to do it. But somebody has to and I will not be a better person if I go to the shop and buy it.”
Josias Jacobsen throws out an anchor as Torfinn Andreasen, 15, looks on during a fishing trip from Klaksvík to collect fishing bait. Torfinn is the son of a long line of fishermen, as both his father and siblings are in that line of business, along with all of his father’s family. Torfinn’s brother works at a large and profitable salmon farm on the islands. It is predicted that Torfinn will end schooling after high school and take after his father on a small fishing boat. Fishing is the biggest industry in the Faroe Islands and also its biggest export.
A child sleeps outside of its home in the streets of Tórshavn. Faroese parents often leave their babies outside of their houses to sleep, as they believe the children sleep better outside and the fresh air is good for them. The Faroe Islands is considered to be a very safe place by locals, so none worry about someone hurting their child.
The Faroe Islands are a unique place. Isolated from much of Europe and with a unique, unpredictable and chilly climate, the Faroe Islands have deep roots in culture and tradition. Much of the culture of the country is rooted in things passed down from generation to generation, whether it is the whale hunt that was once important to survive, the fishing industry that keeps the economy going or knitting sweaters that keep its 50,000 citizens warm.
The Faroe Islands are an obvious outlier from the rest of Europe. With an emphasis on religion and with young adults who return to their childhood homes and do not sever ties with family, they show how important the past and tradition are to their people. Whether one is fishing to make money to feed their family or knitting a sweater for a loved one, the Faroese people very much care about passing down tradition. Though they do not shirk new technologies, especially when it comes to growing vegetation in the harsh Northern Atlantic climate, they grasp onto the traditions they hold dear from yesteryear.