Tag Archives: Jelling

Identity and stereotypes

Like some Aladdin with his Open Sesame, we suddenly have all the offers and riches of Club Denmark available to us once we had our address registered. Crown jewels in Rosenborg Slot. Photo: Mick. 2015.

Like some Aladdin with his Open Sesame, we suddenly have all the offers and riches of Club Denmark available to us once we had our address registered. Crown jewels in Rosenborg Slot. Photo: Mick. 2015.

After all this time of worrying and fretting, we suddenly hold the Open Sesame that lets us access the multitude of riches and offers of Club Denmark. While it took some waiting at International House, wondering if we were in the right place for the right purpose, suddenly we were registered in the Central Person Register with our bohemian address and assigned to a doctor.

My residence card runs out in December 2019 and I am required to send it back should I leave the country to take up residence in another country. My husband, as an EU citizen, is not required to even have a residence card or return anything. Smugly, I swear to myself that I will not return the card: on the commencement of new laws enabling dual citizenship on 1 September 2015 I will reclaim my Danish citizenship without losing my Australian one. I hope.

Aside from the judicial technicalities involved in being a former Danish citizen wanting to be let back into my country, there is also the question of welcome. We have received an overwhelming welcome from the people we know – who seem genuinely excited that we are in Denmark – but what do other Danes think about us staying?

Nørrebro, our new neighbourhood, is quite multicultural. On the street I hear a multitude of languages spoken by people from all over the world. The food stores, restaurants and even fashion stores signal origins from the Middle East, Africa, India and Asia. Around the corner is Copenhagen’s Verdenskultur Center or World Culture Centre, a place for growing cultural projects, with particular emphasis on people from ethnic backgrounds other than Danish.

On Monday night we were stopped in our path. We were walking home from the inner city and were stopped by a demonstration. It turned out that Pegida-dk held their first demonstration in Copenhagen. A spin-off group from the German Pegida – which stands for Patriotische Europäer Gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes (patriotic Europeans against Islamisation of the West), their message is against the influence of Islam in Denmark and easily builds on a fear that Christian indigenous Danes will become a minority. The leader, Nicolai Sennels, claims to be the middle class and this fits with Pegida’s slogan, We are the people. This seems to parallel the Occupy movement’s We are the 99%. It claims a space for ordinary people, who are concerned about the impact of muslim immigrants and fundamental Islamism on Danish society. The 10-year-old Danish Mohammad drawings and the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo are also somehow mixed into it as Danish support of the publication of the Mohammad drawings has grown larger than in 2005.

Right next to our flat, a counter demonstration started. It was a group labelling themselves Revolutionary Antifascists. You are not the people rang through the air and placards advised that refugees and muslims are welcome here. Given the nature of our neighbourhood, it is probably not strange that such a counter demonstration should start here.

An exclusion message in Copenhagen? What is wrong with Jutland? Photo: Lone. 2015.

An exclusion message in Copenhagen? What is wrong with Jutland? Photo: Lone. 2015.

In our street is a rather puzzling message of apparent prejudice on the garage door that protects the entry to the very busy lolly shop when it is closed. The message reads: Hvad er der galt med Jylland? (What is wrong with Jutland?) The intention of this message is not at all clear, but the best interpretation I can think of is that it is a manifestation of an age-old power struggle between the main land and Copenhagen.

According to H.C. Andersen’s lyrics Jutland is Hovedlandet (the head or main land). During the earliest mentions of Denmark as a country in the 10th century, the locus of power and control was in Jelling in Jutland. To this day, the Danish legal system takes it root in Jydske Lov – the law of the Jutes – a codification of the laws of Jutland from 1241. Around the same time Copenhagen was established as part of the Bishop of Roskilde’s jurisdiction and grew in importance over the next centuries. By the 16th century King Christian IV expanded the city and made it the centre of power for all of the Nordic countries.

But why would a lolly shop owner in a small street just outside the lakes in Copenhagen think it ok to remind people of this old rivalry? I think it is a way of constructing identity by differentiating oneself from others: Copenhageners defining themselves in juxtaposition to their fellow Danes, the Jutes, perhaps feeling that the migration from Jutland to Copenhagen is cramping their style and their claim to ancestral lands? Why are you all coming here – why not stay in Jutland?

The exclusion message was given graffiti treatment. Anyone understands its meaning? Photo: Lone. 2015.

The exclusion message was given graffiti treatment. Anyone understands its meaning? Photo: Lone. 2015.

The sign of the lolly shop somehow reminds me that my ‘real’ identity and roots are not here in Copenhagen, but in the sandy soils of Midtjylland. Just like the judicial difficulties associated with my loss of Danish citizenship, it questions whether I belong here. While I admire graffiti artists whose work is humorous or thought provoking, I am not for graffiti of the destructive sort. But I must say I was secretly pleased when one morning the security door’s message had been obscured by another message.

Perhaps it is symbolic that it is a message in a language I do not understand.

Mortality and the art of living

The Danish birth certificate in Jelling. Photo: Mick 2005

Denmark’s birth certificate in Jelling. Photo: Mick 2005

It seems to me death is all around me. First, tragically, actor Robin Williams commits suicide, which makes me wonder how could such a funny man, who seemed to be able to summon joy for himself and other people, do that to the people he loves? Then, horrifyingly, American journalist James Foley is decapitated by members of Islamic State, which makes me wonder how people can hate so much to justify this violence? In Ferguson, Missouri police kill 18-year-old Michael Brown, sparking racial unrest, which makes me wonder why the colour of your skin should determine your life chances. Next, the 1975 Klaus Rifbjerg radio drama, De Beskedne, that I was listening to abruptly ends with the sad death of the family patriarch, which makes me wonder about the cleverness of writers to make you care so much about a character that you feel sad with his or her fictional passing. Finally, I see on Facebook that a childhood friend, the drummer of my brother’s teenage band, passed away before turning 50 years old, which makes me wonder about life’s fragility and my own mortality.

It happens all the time, death, it is a consequence of living; in its own way it is probably the very realisation of life’s finiteness that gives us motivation to live well. In a paradoxical sense, the living is so much harder to do than the dying. Precisely I was granted life through the amazing fact of the evolutionary success of every ancestor that has come before me: each one of them, right back to the primordial soup, were successful in navigating life and surviving at least until they could reproduce. How to make sense of the millisecond of life I have on life’s stage in the long history of the world? How to be secure in the knowledge of my own value and worth in the bigger scheme of things; how to live well; how to make a difference and make a mark? And then you die. And most of us will die twice – once those who remember us also die we will finally slip into oblivion.

Death is the certainty of living. Photo: Mick 2005

Death is the certainty of living. Photo: Mick 2005

In 1979, death first came close to my life when my grandfather, Morfar, died. It was suddenly, without warning; a heart attack, as he sat up in the bed in my mother’s sister’s house. I loved Morfar, who was always warm, funny and willing to read us Asterix comics because he himself was deeply interested in ancient history. He took my brother and I to see the archeological diggings for the remains of 1000 year old Gorm den Gamle in the church in his home town, Jelling. In viking times Jelling was the residence of the Danish monarch and to this day, the rune stone known as Denmark’s birth certificate still stands here. Sadly, at the time of Morfar’s funeral, Jelling’s church was still closed for these important investigations and we sat in a neighbouring community, singing for him and ourselves with our tears, memories and gradual realisation about life’s fragility, our own mortality, how irreversible death is and how long ‘forever’ really lasts.

In 2003, the last of my grandparents, my beloved grandmother, Farmor, died. I loved Farmor who had simply always been there for us. She had reminded me that I was going to come back to Denmark when my kids were ready for school – which I never did. I was across the world in Australia and could not be at her funeral. It was the end of an era. My father said to me: “My generation is next in line”. Ten years later he passed away and, given the fact that my mother died in 1997, I urgently feel my generation is now next in line. The untimely death of someone I knew when I was just a kid, someone just two years older than me, brought this fact straight home to me.

Next on my bucket list is our one year stay in Denmark in 2015. I will be home again, after 23 1/2 years living in another country. 23 1/2 years are roughly half my lived life. Does that mean I am Danish and Australian in equal portions? I look forward to reconnect with my culture, my family and friends. I especially look forward to spending more time with my nieces and nephews. Indeed, in the midst of all the mortality, a brand new member of my Danish family was also born. I cannot wait to meet you, Lillepigen.