Smiling in Greenland

In Greenland Jesper Grønkjær performed the first ever magic show on the Greenlandic inland ice. With temperatures of minus 30 Celsius it was an ice cold show involving magic and balloon animals.

Since then Jesper has been invited back to Greenland numerous times, and has performed in the capital of Nuuk as well as travelled out to the small local villages where surprised inhabitants were shocked when a magician showed up. 


Band on a wire

Back in 1995 I had just begun my professional career as a magician. The audience in Denmark found it funny to be tricked by a professional “crock”, and at this point I didn't know that I would get stronger reactions, when I traveled the world. My first meeting with a different audience than the Danish one, which I was accustomed to, was in Greenland. I was invited to perform among other artists at a culture festival in Nanortalik in the summer 1995.  

A snow blizzard in Kangerlussuaq slowed our journey and here we were all maneuvered into a large, noisy helicopter, which had a great resemblance with a bus with wings. We took of into the storm and headed swaying for Narsarsuaq, where the blizzard got even stronger, which meant that this city had to put up with an unexpected visit of artists and entertainers from Denmark. I had been looking forward to perform a bit and decided, that I could just as well give a small improvised show in Narsarsuaq.

People gathered around me and after a short while every one in town knew that a strange man was visiting. A man who could both do magic and shape balloons into animals. Among the delegation was the rock band TV2, which is quite a big name in Denmark. The band decided as well to give a concert in the city, and watching their show I learned that there can be a big difference between the settings you get as a performer in Denmark and in other countries. Afterwards this contrast has become one of the things I love about traveling. In Denmark you some times get a stage with wind machines, light, sound and maybe even monitors and in the back you get a big dressing room with lighted mirrors. The contrast to this is the journeys to for example the jungle, where you perform in wallies in the jungle or in a tribe village, where you have your bare feet placed in pig-shit, which makes the floor between the small huts. When I mention this, it is because the lead singer Steffen Brandt and his band played in in a battered public house, which had brown panels from the seventies on the wall, while the floor was covered by a remarkably used carpet with stains the size of the icecap. The band was squeezed into a corner in one end of the room with a dirty sheet working as a background!. But most remarkable was not the room or the fact that the famous band had to lend loudspeakers from everyone in the village. No, the nail on the head was that Steffen Brandt had to use a rickety iron rack for his keyboard in the lack of a decent stand. But the guys in the band, who is worshiped all over Denmark, were indifferent to these conditions, and they were actually really happy with the experience. This is a professional attitude I have often thought of since.     

Culture shock and dirty offers

Later our helicopter landed in  Nanortalik, and our reception was worthy of a king: We were greeted by both children and adults in beautiful national clothing from Greenland. The 2500 inhabitants (and 70 cars) in the city lived in an area twice the size of Sealand (a Danish island), and since they lived as many people from Greenland without many cultural impressions as theaters, movie theaters and concerts, our team made a big impression on them. If you have never met a magician then this is of course a special experience. The children got a little scared at first but after a while they could see the fun. They even laughed when they weren't supposed to. But to a small boy the difference between a magician and a sorcerer not big. This way I got my name which was “The crazy sorcerer”.

 The biggest experience though was one I got myself: The shock to meet a different culture than the one I was used to made an important impact on me. I was not accustomed to traveling and then suddenly experiencing a different culture, nature, humor, mentality and even a different type of humanity was extraordinary surprising for me. I saw that there was room for every one regardless range, gender and handicap and there was a thorough understanding that what is not completed one day, will be done the next. We visited the town at a time when everyone was ready to celebrate, so you can easily say that every day was a party with fun and temptations. I can easily say, that it was not every time we were invited over for a “cup of coffee”, that we found coffee on the table!       

During the 14 days stay I learned a lot about drinking and sex, which were two areas, that I had not yet had that many experiences with, since I was still quite a young lad. Indeed there were stuff going on here, that were quite different to the parties at the lonely bar in my hometown Kjellerup. Among other things I met an elderly woman so drunk, I'm not sure she could tell the difference between the front and rear of a seal. I literally backed out the room, when she pointed at her hips saying: “Above I might be 65 years old, but below I'm still 17. Do you want to come home and see....?  


A seal on the table is better than ten in the sea

It made the biggest impression on me to visit the small settlements and the ice cap. I arrived in a small boat at the settlements, where the inhabitants lived a life without electricity, toilets or clean water. Practically everywhere I was invited to join for dinner, which always consisted of their primary source of food: Seal. One place I even participated in the hunt and I did succeed in shooting our dinner. It is costume to cut up the seal afterwards and eat the lever raw. Not just my favorite or anything I was accustomed to from home. We only got exotic food at home, if we accidentally dropped some oregano on our meatballs!  

One of the trips in a small boat went out between the beautiful icebergs, which adopted all sorts of colors when the light caught the ice: light blur, turquoise, greenish, black and yellow were just some of the many colors, that caught me by surprise. But all of this was nothing compared to the sensation I felt, when I first set food on the ice cap. We sailed for hours to get close to this endless  ice cap, and in the horizon I could see how this phenomenon of nature just got more gigantic every moment. Throughout centuries this extreme place have had a magnetic attraction on different types of adventures from all over the world. A fascination that has claimed lives, when the adventurer succumbed to the forces of nature in this insane terrain with its extreme temperatures.      

Now I was suddenly the one standing there. Off course I wasn't about to cross the ice, but I still felt the sensation that traveling was something that would come to mean a lot to me. Not only because I wished to visit Greenland and the Ice Cap again. No, I wished to see as mush of the world as possible. As the years have passed I am happy to conclude, that my wish have come true: I have now visited this amazing country several times and I have just in this moment a new journey planned. And my thoughts of seeing as much of the world as possible also came true. The magic and the traveling have become a big part of my life and in a strange sense I could feel it that day standing on the Ice Cap. By the way we ended the day by bringing a piece of the old ice back with us. In this way we could drink a genuine whiskey on the rocks the following night!    



The Smiling Fairytale Society