We All Protest!

At the heart of downtown Reykjavík lies the small, sheltered Austurvöllur square, criss-crossed by walking paths and lined with lilac trees. In the middle of the square, facing the unassuming two-storey structure that houses Iceland’s parliament, is a statue of Jón Sigurðsson, leader of Iceland’s 19th century campaign for independence from Denmark. At a national meeting called by the Danish government in 1851, Jón led Icelandic representatives in opposing a new constitution which would limit Icelanders’ rights. “We all protest!” they famously called out. “Vér mótmælum allir!”

The statue of this celebrated Icelandic protester has since fittingly looked down upon many other activists who have occupied Austurvöllur, which has since become the gathering place for locals who want to speak out on any issue. While many are familiar with Iceland’s mass protests following the 2008 banking collapse, the country’s history of protest in the modern era is much longer and more complex, spurred by issues ranging from women’s liberation and nuclear disarmament to, most recently, action on climate change and asylum seekers’ rights.

Yet by many measures, Icelanders are among the happiest people on earth, and Iceland one of the best places to live. So, what is it that drives locals of a wealthy, peaceful country to protest in the streets? And have these protests, miniscule on a global scale, spurred any tangible changes?

Borgarfjörður eystri

Fragile Hope

Borgarfjörður eystri’s impending fate seemed rather certain; as globalisation increases, so too does the movement of people from rural areas to urban centres. Such has been the case in a number of small villages across Iceland, as people steadily relocate to Reykjavík in search of accessible services, larger communities, and – perhaps most crucially – viable employment opportunities.

guns

Hold Your Fire

With relatively widespread gun ownership but virtually no gun crime, foreign observers have frequently held up Iceland as an example of sensible gun control.

Marta Nordal Leikfélag Akureyrar

Thinking Big

The Akureyri Theatre Company is one of the oldest in the country. It was founded in 1907 and went professional in 1973. Since then, it’s been the only Icelandic professional theatre company outside the Reykjavík area.

moon over Esja mountain

Stop All the Clocks

Few issues have garnered as much attention – and feedback – as the contentious suggestion to move the Icelandic clock back one hour to better align with solar time.

Scent of an Island

For thousands of years, man has been extracting scent from plants for his pleasure and physical well-being. Despite this long history, Iceland has been lagging behind.

Bubbi Morthens in Harpa

Raising Your Voice

Words by Jelena Ćirić Photography by Golli “I’m not necessarily talking about
Ragnar Kjartansson Death is Elsewhere

Staging Reality

Words by Gréta Sigríður Einarsdóttir Photography by Páll Stefánsson It’s easy to