OQILIALLANNEQ / RELIEF, 2022. Video-installation, 17. min.
The work OQILIALLANNEQ / RELIEF by Greenlandic artist VARNA is a multi-layered examination of the complexities of reconciling an internal lived process of restoring spiritual Inuit practices after colonial oppression with a reality of still ongoing systemic repression. Within a lucid dreamscape the work juxtapositions personal and historical fragments of sounds with imagery that toils with stereotypical notions of Inuit identity in exaggerated form, drawing on the metamorphic aesthetics and character of East Greenlandic mask dancing: A form of entertainment traditionally intended to stir up feelings of instability and uncontrolled emotions of uncertainty, fear, embarrassment or euphoric joy in the receiving audience. This was practiced in order to come to terms with one’s emotional weaknesses, a crucial skill for surviving in the extreme Arctic environment .
The museal visual setting of the work is a projection into a dystopian ambivalent time where the stagnated western institutional modes of preserving intangible culture has rendered the living spiritual practice of Greenlandic drum dancing as mere objects and relics of the past. Fossilized in artificial stagnation. In contrast to the visual world the sound world of the work offers a living physical dimension of reconnection with the fluid and intuitive ancestral heritage. Where the body and drum become a unified open channel of relief.
VARNA: Drum, vocals, concept
Salka Valsdottir: Sound design and production
Arnbjörg María Danielsen: Video direction
Anders Berthelsen: Cinematography
Blair Alexander: Video editor
Henrik Suersaq: Costume design
Katinnguaq Heilmann Jensen: Makeup
Nini Karo Aviaaja Kleist: Hair
Ivana Sakariassen Knudsen: Camera assistant
Varna is a drum dancer and performance artist. Varna’s art is deeply rooted in her ancestral heritage, with her distinct soundworld being inspired by the traditional East Greenlandic drum dance passed down to her from elders of her stem. Her transdisciplinary approach to exploring traditional material and spiritual practices is infused by her multifaceted experiences as a contemporary singer-songwriter, experimental composer, actor, social researcher, and guidance counselor. Varna is the artistic and managing director of Qilaat, a cultural organization committed to promoting, preserving, and developing the traditional heritage of drum dancing, towards new stages. Greenlandic drum dancing was in 2021 inscribed into UNESCO's representative list of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity.