Deep North Episode 69: Melting Hearts

Ice Guys boyband

Jón Jónsson had the idea for Ice Guys in early 2023.

It all began as a kind of a joke.

He was, after all, 38 years old and probably a bit too long in the tooth to start a boy band.

But, despite his advanced age – in boy-band years, that is – he still had his boyish good looks and those teeth, no matter how long, would become the focal point of a Colgate Christmas campaign later that year.

Besides, Jón had a slew of popular singles to his name and years of experience in the Icelandic music business.

So why not?

Read the article here.

The Heath

seyðisfjörður jessica auer

Jessica Auer is a Canadian photographer and filmmaker. Through her work, she examines our social, political, and aesthetic attitudes towards places, including historical sites, tourist destinations, and small communities. Jessica received her MFA from Concordia University in Montréal, where she teaches part-time. While in Iceland, Jessica runs Ströndin Studio, an educational and experimental centre for […]

This content is only visible under subscription. Subscribe here or log in.

Continue reading

Searching for Grettir

fagraskógarfjall william morris

On July 17, 1871, the English poet and artisan William Morris set out from Reykjavík on horseback with three companions, two guides, and fourteen ponies on the first leg of a six-week journey through the heart of western Iceland. In the age of steamships, locomotives, and the telegraph, this mode of travel was medieval by […]

This content is only visible under subscription. Subscribe here or log in.

Continue reading

The Best Museums in North Iceland

Akureyri Iceland

Why should you pay a visit to the museums in North Iceland? What can you learn about the history of this spectacular region? Let’s read more about some of North Iceland’s most prestigious museums.

Given that Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavík, is where most visitors will begin their journey, it is completely understandable that North Iceland is less visited than the south. 

In some respects, this is a shame, while in others, it maintains the north’s secretive majesty. But however you look at it, the region is well-worth exploring. 

 

Closer to the Arctic Circle than any other part of the country, the landscape is known to be wild, mountainous, with deep fjords and stretching peninsulas. Unsurprisingly, this stunning place is a favourite amongst those who enjoy sightseeing, as well as breathtaking wildlife tours. 

Aside from the gravitas and splendour of its nature, the north is a domain rich in culture and history. Its people are proud of their place in the world – not to mention the distinction they hold amongst fellow Icelanders – and they are eager to share as much with visitors. 

You’ll discover so much fascinating information to learn about this amazing place in the region’s many museums, so make sure to break up the sightseeing by shifting your attention to some cultural highlights. 

Akureyri Museum

A historic photo of Akureyri
Photo: Minjasafnið á Akureyri / Akureyri Museum

For those looking for a comprehensive introduction to the North’s history, Akureyri Museum should be your first stop. Two permanent exhibitions – Eyjafjorður from Early Times and Akureyri: the Town on the Bay – display artefacts related to the history of the north’s two major settlements, including those from the Viking period and the Middle Ages. 

With information boards in English, Danish, and German, you will find their litany of facts highly accessible, allowing you to gain deeper insights into this most fascinating of regions. 

Akureyri Museum also operates a number of other establishments, including the likes of Nonni House, Museum Church & Garden, Akureyri Toy Museum, Davíðshús (Davíð Stefánson’s writers museum) and Laufás heritage site. Actually, Laufás is especially worthy of an extra note – it is a beautiful farmstead that perfectly captures how rural Icelanders once lived in the area. 

Address: Aðalstræti 58, 600 Akureyri

Opening Hours: 11:00 – 17:00 1. June – 30. September 

13:00 – 16:00 1. October – 31. May

The Icelandic Aviation Museum

Flight in Iceland
Photo: Photo: Flugsafn Íslands – The Icelandic Aviation Museum

Iceland does not have a military; no Army, no Navy (aside from their Coast Guard), and – most importantly in this context – no Air Force. 

Still, this small island does have a complex and fascinating history of aviation, especially in regards to their arduous but successful development of commercial airlines. 

Founded May 1 1999, Flugsafn Íslands, or the Icelandic Aviation Museum, is located in a hangar at Akureyri Airport. The museum was established due to a lack of hangar space at the airport, with many of them filled with older planes that were no longer in use. These aircraft were then moved to be permanently displayed in an exhibition that would detail how Icelanders first took flight. 

Inside, you will find aerial machines of all kinds, from old bi-planes to gliders, and even smaller models that hang decoratively from the ceiling. Each has an important place in this fascinating story – a tale that began in 1919 with the creation of the first Icelandic airline, to the powerful passenger jets and rescue helicopters that make up this nation’s air-fleet today. 

Flying over Iceland
Photo: Flugsafn Íslands – The Icelandic Aviation Museum

But it’s not all just reading and observing stationary aircraft. 

Visitors can actually look around inside the Coast Guard plane, TF-SYN, gaining a deeper insight into the inner-mechanics of such incredible works of engineering, and even see some of the aircraft in action during the museum’s exciting flight day, held each year in June. 

Address: Akureyri International Airport, 600 Akureyri 

Opening Hours: May 15th to Sept 15th: Open daily 11:00-17:00

Sept 16th to May 14th: Saturdays 13:00-16:00

Ystafell Transportation Museum

Cars at Ystafell Transportation Museum
Photo: Ystafell Transportation Museum

In 1998, married-couple Ingólfur Kristjánsson and Kristbjörg Jónsdóttir founded the Ystafell Transportation Museum, a natural extension of Ingólfur’s semi-compulsive collecting of mechanical parts. 

In fact, many guests attest that the reason as to why visiting is so memorable comes down to Ingólfur’s passion, dedication, and knowledge of the fascinating machines on display.  

Not only does the museum display the largest collections of automobiles in the country, but also many transportation types other than cars, including tractors, aircraft, or snowmobiles. 

Address: Ystafell III, Norðausturvegur, 641 Húsavík

Opening Hours: May 25th ­- Sept 25th: 11:00 -­ 18:00 

The Herring Era Museum

fishing in Iceland
Photo: Golli. A fishing boat in Iceland

Plans to open a heritage museum in Siglufjörður date back all the way to 1957, when newly elected town-council members recognised the need to preserve equipment, artefacts, and photographs related to the local fishing industry. It was not until 1989 that the Herring Era Museum finally opened its doors, allowing visitors the chance to learn more about why fishing – and fishing Herring, particularly – was so important to the town’s development. 

Renovations continued over the next decades, transforming an old fishermen’s shed, Róaldsbrakki, into a bonafide exhibition space, complete with a boat house and two large museum buildings. Today, it attracts over 30,000 visitors a year, as well as hosts countless events, including art shows and music festivals.

As is the case with so many islands, the Icelandic nation is built on fishing. Herring was once called ‘the silver of the sea,’ and is, to this day, considered to be one of the founding pillars of Icelandic society. This is because Iceland’s herring fishing took off at a time when much of the world was experiencing a financial depression, and thus it played a huge role in securing Iceland’s economic independence and stability. 

In fact, one could go as far as to say that the importance of Herring was among the major drives behind Iceland breaking away from Denmark in 1944. 

No other place in Iceland was so influenced by what’s known as the Herring Adventure than Siglufjörður. However, countless other towns developed primarily due to the hunting down and catching of this common fish species, including Dalvík, Akureyri, Seyðisfjörður, and many others. 

Address: Snorragata 10, 580 Siglufjörður

Opening Hours: June – August: 10:00-18:00

May – Sept: 13:00-17:00

Akureyri Art Museum

Akureyri Art Museum is one of the top museums in North Iceland
Photo: Golli. Exhibition at the Akureyri Art Museum

Akureyri Art Museum has a revolving door of exhibitions, showcasing a wide range of creative disciplines from watercolour paintings to contemporary art and even scenography. In short, it is one of the best places in the country to appreciate just how diverse Icelandic artists can be. Each Thursday, a guided tour in English allows visitors the chance to gain some insider knowledge about the artworks on display. 

The museum itself is designed in the Bauhaus-style of architecture, making it immediately noticeable when walking through Iceland’s second-largest city. Its stand-out appearance is quite notable given the building used to be home to a simple dairy. 

Akureyri Art Museum is also responsible for the A! Performance Festival, held in October each year. This fun and unique event draws in eclectic visual artists and weird, experimental theatre-projects of all kinds, transforming the city streets into a bohemian wonderland for a few days in the month. Aside from that, it also hosts the Iceland Visual Arts Awards, having done so since 2006. 

Address: Kaupvangsstræti 8-12, 600 Akureyri

Opening Hours: June – August: 10:00 – 17:00

Sept – May: 12:00 – 17:00

Safnasafnið – The Icelandic Folk and Outsider Art Museum

Safnasafnid
Photo: Daniel Starrason. Safnasafnið

The Icelandic Folk and Outsider Art Museum might be described as a true artist’s museum.

That is because this establishment – founded in 1995 by Níels Hafstein and Magnhildur Sigurðardóttir – displays work by creatives who have, for one reason or another, have been classified as working outside of the mainstream. 

Therefore, guests can expect to see not only the work of professional artists, but also that of amateurs and autodidacts.

Photo: Safnasafnið

Such a strange, diverse array of collected pieces adds a real sense of unexpectedness and curiosity to visiting here, as well as allows for a deeper glimpse into the often peculiar minds of Icelandic creators. 

Address: Hverfisgata 15, Hverfisgata 15, 101 Reykjavík

Opening Hours: May – Sept: 10:00 – 17:00 

The Museum of Prophecies

 

 

Þórdís the fortune-teller is the unlikely star of this strange and otherworldly museum in Skagaströnd. She was the first inhabitant of the region, and it was claimed she was a magic-woman, of sorts, capable of reading the future and unafraid of starting feuds with the settlers who came after her. In other words, Þórdís was a truly independent spirit, so revered in her time that she had a mountain – Spákonufell – named after her. 

Visitors to the Museum of Prophecies will learn about Þórdís’ life story, as well as the role that fortune-telling has played in Icelandic culture over the centuries. Aside from that, they can also have their own fortunes told as part of an informative guided tour.  

Built within a former army barracks, the museum is not large by any means. Still, it boasts incredible replicas of old Icelandic homes and famous people from folktales, and also has a decent gift shop which sells local handicrafts and a small cafe to purchase refreshments.   

Address: Oddagata 6, 545 Skagaströnd

Opening Hours: June – Sept:  13:00 – 18:00

In Summary 

Two people walking along Akureyri coastal path.
Photo: María H. Tryggvadóttir. Two people walking along Akureyri coastal path.

Those in the North should take time to step away from appreciating the spectacular surrounding nature to take-in the history and artwork that help make the region what it is. 

Given the breadth of cultural establishments one can explore, there is simply no other way to get a full sense of why it remains one of the most enticing and fascinating parts of the country. 

Museums in Reykjavík | Your Guide

Perlan at sunset

Which museums can be visited in Reykjavík, and what kind of exhibitions do they display? What are the opening hours, and how much are the admission fees? These questions will be answered ahead, so read on to learn more about visiting museums in Iceland’s vibrant capital city. 

Iceland has a rich, varied history, starting with Norse settlers who arrived in the 9th century.

To become the modern democratic republic we know and love today, a long series of events have shaped this island’s geology, and culture, including disruptive volcanic eruptions, military occupations, and artistic movements.

Walking through Photo: Golli. Árbær Open Air Museum
Photo: Golli. Guests at the Árbær Open Air Museum

There is no better way of learning more about Iceland’s history than by visiting the different kinds of museums in Reykjavík, the capital city.

Not only does it offer a healthy dose of intellectual curiosity, but it helps to break up the seemingly endless sightseeing in Iceland’s nature. 

Perlan Museum and Observation Deck

A rainbow over Perlan, one of the museums in Reykjavík
Photo: Golli. A rainbow over Perlan Museum and Observation Deck

Those who have spent any time exploring Reykjavík will have noticed a forested hillside outside of the downtown area. This area is named Öskjuhlíð; from its treeline, a distinctive dome peeks out. It is as much a part of the city skyline as Hallgrimskirja or Harpa Concert Hall, but not everyone is aware of its true purpose, nor what lies in wait there for those who take the time to visit.  

What was once the city’s water treatment centre has since been converted to the beloved visitors attraction, Perlan Museum and Observation Deck. This fun and interactive exhibition space is a great location for adults and children alike to learn more about Iceland’s amazing nature in a simulated and entertaining way. 

 

Inside are many recreated scenes from around Iceland, including an ice tunnel and a huge model of the Látrabjarg bird-cliffs. There are also cinematic shows focused on the Northern Lights and the Geldingadalir volcanic eruption. Plus, there is an informative exhibition about the importance of water in Iceland, complete with a virtual aquarium.

On top of the four huge water tanks that surround Perlan’s dome sits a beautiful observation deck, allowing for 360° views of Reykjavík and its bordering nature. When you’ve finished appreciating the views, you can stop by the various amenities on offer, including a restaurant and bar, a gift shop, and even an ice cream parlour. 

Address: Öskjuhlíð, 105 Reykjavík

Contact: 566 9000

National Museum of Iceland (Þjóðminjasafn Íslands)

World War II soldiers in Iceland
Photo: National Museum of Iceland. WW2 soldiers in Iceland.

The National Museum of Iceland is the best place in the city to boost your knowledge about the history of this island. Established February 24 1863, the museum was founded as the Antiquarian Collection, taking on a wide array of historical objects that had, until then, been stored in Denmark. 

Its name was changed in 1911, long before the country gained its independence in 1944. Until then, the museum’s collection was stored in various attics across the city, and it was only when Iceland became a nation in its own right that a dedicated building was offered by the government. Today, the museum has been completely refurbished to meet modern standards.  

Their permanent exhibition traces Iceland’s timeline from the Viking era, all the way up to the modern day, allowing guests to journey through the centuries with a mix of informative display boards, photographs, and intriguing artefacts. There are around 2000 objects to look at and appreciate, some dating back to the Settlement Era

Address: Suðurgata 41, 102 Reykjavík

Contact: 530 2200

The Reykjavík Art Museum (Listasafn Reykjavíkur)

Hafnarhús art museum
Photo: Golli. Hafnarhús is one of the museums in Reykjavík

The Reykjavík Art Museum is housed in three separate buildings – Hafnarhús, Kjarvalsstaðir, and Ásmundarsafn, the former home of the Icelandic sculptor, Ásmundur Sveinsson.

Hafnarhús is located in downtown Reykjavík, near the scenic Old Harbour. Actually, this one of the museum’s buildings is a refurbished warehouse that was once used as part of Iceland’s fishing industry. 

The main draw here is that it is permanent home to the work of visual artist, Erró, who made great strides in the pop-art movement. Those arriving from Keflavik Airport will have already seen his work as a comic-style mosaic within the terminal. 

Aside from Erró’s work, Hafnarhús’ revolving exhibitions offers the chance to see pieces by other upcoming artists from Iceland, as well as purchase sophisticated souvenir pieces to brighten up your home.  

What other buildings make up the Reykjavík Art Museum

The second of the museum’s buildings, Kjarvalsstaðir, can be found in Klambratún Park. Klambratún is a lovely green space often occupied by dog walkers and frisbee-golfers. This was the first building in Iceland designed specifically to display artworks. In fact, it is built in the style of Nordic Modernism. 

Host to modern art and sculpture, Kjarvalsstaðir is named after Jóhannes S. Kjarval, one of Iceland’s most influential and eccentric artists. Born in poverty, he rised to great heights in Icelandic society as a painter of many broad styles, including the likes of Expressionism, Impressionism, and Cubism. In fact, he was so revered in his time that he was awarded Iceland’s highest honour – the Order of the Falcon – but as a true outsider, he declined to accept it. Today, he is memorialised on the 2000 krona note.    

With its dome structure and slanting white walls, the final building belonging to the Reykjavík Art Museum, Ásmundarsafn, is visually striking at first glance. This is no shock given that it is the former home of the prized Icelandic sculptor, Ásmundur Sveinsson, whose sometimes controversial impact on the world of sculpture can be seen in every detail of this fascinating place. 

The garden surrounding this futuristic, almost Mediterranean-style building is dotted with Sveinsson’s abstract creations. The inside displays more of his work alongside other contemporary artists who took inspiration from this great artist. Ásmundarsafn makes for a great stop while visiting other nearby attractions like Reykjavík botanical gardens and Reykjavík zoo.  

Address: Tryggvagata 17, 101 Reykjavík

Contact: 411 6400

The Saga Museum (Saga minjasafn)

Reykjavík statue
Photo: Golli. A statue in Reykjavík

The mediaeval sagas tell legends from the early Settlement Period in Iceland, but even English translations of these historic works can be challenging to understand. One way to make these stories more accessible is by visiting the Saga Museum, which helps history come to life. 

Here, they convey some of the greatest Icelandic characters and stories through the use of life-sized models, complete with traditional clothing and authentically replicated weapons and props. 

There are seventeen exhibitions on display, informing guests of events like the reformation and the black death, as well as allowing you to up close and personal with some of the most influential Icelanders who ever lived, such as the great writer Snorri Sturluson and the Viking explorer, Leif Erikson. 

Address: Grandagarður 2, 101 Reykjavík

Contact: 511 1517

Reykjavík City Museum (Reykjavíkurborgarsafn)

Dressing up at Árbær Open Air Museum
Photo: Golli. Árbær Open Air Museum

The Reykjavík City Museum hosts five separate exhibitions across Iceland’s capital, allowing you to hop from one to the other while taking in the picturesque urban sights along the way.

Outside of downtown is Arbaer Open-Air Museum, where many historical buildings have been either moved, or lovingly recreated, to show what life in Iceland was like in prior times. Then there is the Settlement Exhibition, which offers deep insights into how Reykjavík and its surrounding areas were first developed by the Norse settlers. 

The Reykjavík Maritime Museum is the go-to place to learn more about how Icelanders have lived by, and been defined by, their surrounding coastal waters. Here you will learn about the nation’s fishing industry, its coast guard, and the various species that live around this island. 

Reykjavík Old Harbour
Photo: Golli. Outside of Reykjavík Maritime Museum

Speaking of islands, The Reykjavík City Museum also owns the small but scenic Videy. This speck of land which can be seen from the shores of the city. There are many nature trails for you to enjoy on Videy, as well as Yoko Ono’s art exhibition, The Peace Tower. This installation is dedicated to the late-beatle, John Lennon. Ferries travel between Reykjavík and Videy every day, so long as the weather permits it. 

Finally, there is the Museum of Photography, documenting the history of this city, and this nation. Its collection exceeds approximately 6-million fascinating images. Some of its oldest photographs date back to 1860, offering a intriguing look at how Reykjavík looked in the past. 

Address: Aðalstræti 10, 101 Reykjavík

Contact: 411 6370

The Icelandic Phallological Museum (Hið Íslenska Reðasafn)

Animal organs on display at the Penis Museum
Photo: Penis Museum

Colloquially known as ‘The Penis Museum’, the Icelandic Phallological Museum is one of the only establishments in the world dedicated to the male genitalia. Whether you consider that a good thing or not is entirely down to personal preference.

Regardless of snickering, the fascination the male member draws from the public cannot be denied. Some might call the penis proud, others fearsome, but typically, amusing is the most common descriptor. Given the key rings, t-shirts, and phallic pasta noodles in the gift shop, one knows the museum is all too aware of this. 

Being good-humoured is one thing, but that’s the least of what’s on offer. For one, it is not just human-derived specimens the museum focuses on, but also those that once belonged to the many animal species found across Iceland. 

There is nothing obscene about the museum (except, perhaps, the gift shop.) Those scientifically inclined – and capable of keeping a straight face – will discover plenty to love in its exhibitions and displays. 

Address: Kalkofnsvegur 2, 101 Reykjavík, Ísland, 101 Reykjavík

Contact: 561 6663

The Northern Lights Center (Norðurljósasafnið)

Auroras above the trees
Photo: Golli. The auroras lighting up the trees!

One of the greatest allures during winter in Iceland is seeing the Northern Lights, sometimes known as the Aurora Borealis. As with any natural phenomena, there is no guarantee they will appear during your time here. Their visibility is highly dependent on cloud cover, solar activity, and light pollution in the area. 

If your chances of seeing them look slim, visit Aurora Reykjavík: the Northern Lights Centre in the Grandi neighbourhood. An interactive exhibition details the mythology and science behind the auroras. And a 7 m wide cinema displays awe-inspiring footage of the lights in action. 


But that’s not all. There are also entertaining, informative workshops dedicated to teaching you how best to photograph this wonder of nature. Finally, a photo-booth simulates the Northern Lights should they remain elusive during your stay. 

The gift shop allows you to purchase any number of aurora-inspired souvenirs, including high-quality prints, clothing, and ornaments. 

Address: Grandagarður 2, 101 Reykjavík

Contact: 780 4500

In Summary

What museums in Reykjavík can you visit?
Photo: Golli. Reykjavík at dusk.

With so much to see and do in Iceland, it is unlikely you will visit all the museums in Reykjavík.

In fact, unless your trip is purely orientated towards Iceland’s history, no one would advise it. There are a wealth of other activities and attractions on offer.

Still, exploring the capital’s museums will provide a greater insight into the culture and history of this enchanting country.  

What is Icelandic Culture?  

Reykjavík at dawn

Despite being home to just under 400,000 people, the Nordic nation of Iceland has a compelling, ancient, and fascinating island culture, one enriched by the Icelandic people’s passion for music, art, literature, and sport.

Iceland’s natural landscapes are what the country is known for, at least as far as its millions of foreign visitors are concerned. But many do not expect how intricate and deeply rooted the culture here is. 

There are signs of it everywhere, from its historic architecture to the great variety of live music and comedy events dotted across the capital, Reykjavík

Then there is the local film and television, not to mention the veritable treasure-trove of literature, all of it intertwined with and celebrating the foundation of this young and vibrant nation – the Icelandic language!

So, what are the origins of Iceland’s cultural heritage, and how do they continue to shape the country we know and love today?

Icelandic History & Heritage 

power lifting in iceland
Photo: Golli. A power lifter in Iceland.

The history of Iceland began with early settlers from Norway. While they might have arrived as the iconic vikings, they settled into the lives of farmers and fishermen, deriving sustenance from the frigid waves of the surrounding seas, and using the once-abundant forests for fuel and ship-building.

Developing an independent and self-sufficient society was no easy feat in Iceland’s earliest days. With a lack of food, bitter disputes between clans, and inhospitable weather, the odds were stacked against any person daring enough to call this new found land home. 

At various points in history, Denmark and Norway both held power over Iceland. The Icelandic Commonwealth came to an end when the Norwegian monarchy urged the Icelanders to swear fealty in fealty in 1262. This agreement was known as the Old Covenant. Formally, Iceland was owned by Norway until 1814, but in actuality, the Kalmar Union meant that the Crown of Denmark had enormous political sway from as early as 1380. It was only in 1874 that Iceland gained home rule from Denmark. 

During the Second World War, in 1940, Great Britain occupied Iceland to protect its people, and to deny Germany an important tactical position between the United States and Europe. After only one year, the Americans took over this responsibility. While the occupation was a contentious issue in Iceland, it was largely peaceful and cooperative, with much urban development achieved in these years.

The Alþingi – Iceland’s historical government

Þingvellir
Photo: Golli. Þingvellir National Park

The Alþingi is often touted as the first democratically-elected parliament in the world, having formed in 930 AD. In Iceland’s formative years, various clans from all across the country would join to discuss new laws, solve disputes, and form new alliances.

Visitors can discover where the historical Alþingi was held, every two years since its formation, at the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Þingvellir National Park. This unique and gorgeous area is an important part of the famed Golden Circle sightseeing route in west Iceland. 

The Icelandic Language 

 

Fairly unchanged from the Old Norse spoken by Iceland’s earliest settlers, Icelandic is a North-Germanic language. It is part of the Indo-European language family, but thanks to Iceland’s isolation, many words and grammatical rules from Old Norse are still used in day-to-day conversation. 

Icelandic has many distinct characters – á, é, í, ó, ú, ý, and ö – each of which has a distinctive pronunciation. As such, Icelandic writing is particularly phonetic. It is also a conservative language, meaning that there is a big resistance to changing it among local speakers. For example, the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies is one such body that pushes for inventing new Icelandic words rather than adopting those from other languages. 

Icelandic Literature 

A man reading in a book shop corner.
Photo: Golli. A man reading in a book shop corner.

By and large, Icelanders have a deep love of literature, brought about through a great tradition of written stories, and enforced as a beloved pastime in the winter months. During Christmas, the community engages in Jólabókaflóð (Christmas Book Flood) where many manuscripts are published, ready to be shared as gifts between family members and friends. 

In 2011, Reykjavík joined the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. In collaboration with the Icelandic Publishing Association, the City of Literature office holds the Reykjavík Book Fair, which allows locals and guests to take part in readings, workshops, and discussions about the nation’s latest literary offerings. This wholesome event is great for adults and childrens alike, so check it out if you have an interest in storytelling.

The Icelandic Sagas

Goðafoss waterfall
Photo: Golli. Goðafoss waterfall

While challenging to read, and even more difficult to understand from a cultural and thematic standpoint, the Icelandic Sagas provide, perhaps, the greatest insights into the development of Icelandic culture throughout history. The sagas were written by many different people, but most commonly, Snorri Sturluson is cited as one of the more prolific of their scribes. 

Many sagas were written during Iceland’s mediaeval period, so they can be broken down into various categories. The sagas of the Icelanders (Íslendingasögur) document the daily lives and stories of local people, emphasising their familial relationships, and place within Icelandic society as a whole. Arguably, Njála (Njála saga) and Egil’s Saga (Egils saga) are the best known examples from this category. 

Then there are the legendary Sagas (Fornaldarsögur). These focus on tales from Norse Mythology; of Odin, Thor, Frigg, Loki, and many others. A few sagas divulge more about Icelandic folklore in particular, mentioning the supernatural creatures said to dot this island. Trolls and elves. Hidden people. The Völsunga saga would be your first point of reference for learning more about the body of myths first written about in Iceland.  

Kings’ Sagas (Konungasögur) trace the lives of various Norwegian kings, as well as others across Scandinavia. These are, more likely, of interest to academic historians. But they still offer an interesting look at the political reality of life in Iceland between the 9th to 11th centuries. 

Modern Icelandic Literature 

book bookstore Icelandic literature bækur
Photo: Golli. A book store in Reykjavík

As history moved on, so did Iceland’s contribution to the world of literature. The late Halldór Kiljan Laxness is considered to be Iceland’s most esteemed writer, having won the 1955 Nobel Prize in Literature for his novel, Independent People (Sjálfstætt fólk,) first published in 1934. 

Two of Laxness’ other important novels are The Fish Can Sing (Brekkukotsannáll, 1957) and The Atom Station (Atómstöðin, 1948). While the first is beloved both here and abroad for its simple, yet lyrical style, The Atom Station caused quite a stir upon publication for its description of an abortion and supposed communist sympathies.

Another bonafide Icelandic classic is The News From Home (Fregnaðurinn er að heiman, 1952) by Guðrún Baldvina Árnadóttir; better known as Guðrún frá Lundi. This keenly observant novel tells of Icelandic immigrants in North America, detailing the cultural shift they face as they adapt to living in the new world.

Naturally, with so many Icelandic authors published each year, the list of writers worthy of a mention grows at an almost exponential rate. Both Icelandic culture and its nature are subjects rich for exploration as far as prose is concerned, so it is little wonder that many names have become recognised outside of its borders. Arnaldur Indriðason and Yrsa Sigurðardóttir are both known for their crime-fiction, while Sjón has made a name for himself in not over novel-writing, but also screenwriting, music, and poetry.

Icelandic Music

Dancing in an Icelandic nightclub
Photo: Golli. People enjoying Iceland’s nightlife.

Iceland is well-known globally for its music, bringing to the listening public an artistry and technical skill that has gained many die hard admirers. Despite that, Icelanders have an enduring love for the Eurovision Song Competition, despite never having won themselves. Still, their optimism is admirable, and over recent years, acts like Hatari and Daði Freyr have brought them ever closer to the victory they so crave. 

Back when punk music was breaking new ground, the Icelanders were quick to add their own spin on this anarchic genre. To this day, punk remains an important part of Iceland’s musical history. One only need look at Iceland’s Eurovision entry a few years ago – the demonically stylish Hatari who blend punk with industrial and techno music in what is this country’s latest adaptation of the genre. 

The most authentic location to learn more about it is at the Icelandic Punk Museum (Pönksafn Íslands), a small and quirky establishment built inside an abandoned public bathroom on Bankastræti in downtown Reykjavík. 

Those who do not have the time to fit a visit into their schedule should seek out the 1982 documentary, Rokk í Reykjavík, directed by Friðrik Þór Friðriksson. This cool and fascinating catalogue of musical acts captures early footage of Björk when she was part of her original band, Tappi Tikarrass, as well as many other local favourites. 

Who are the most famous musicians in Iceland? 

björk 1997
Björk in concert, 1997. CC. Wikimedia Commons

Some of Iceland’s musical acts have received more recognition abroad than others. In that regard, the country has no more famous musical export than Björk

Avant-garde. Experimental. Eccentric. All of these words could be used to describe Björk’s approach to music. With her willingness to push the boundaries of what is expected in terms of tracks, album art, and stage presence, it is no wonder that her early roles in various punk bands quickly transcended to one of the most acclaimed solo acts of all time. 

Another huge Icelandic name abroad is Sigur Rós, popular for their ethereal tones, minimalist approach to classicism, and sometimes nonsensical lyrics. Speaking of their lyrics, the lines in many of Sigur Rós’ tracks are known to be a strange blend of Icelandic and English, coined as Vonlenska by the lead singer, Jónsi. 

In the world of blues-inspired rock n’ roll, it is Kaleo who dominates the scene. Led by the handsome, charismatic, and immensely talented Jökull Júlíusson, this band’s take on americana has garnered fans across the world. 

 

The indie/folk rock band, Of Monsters and Men, recently celebrated the ten-year anniversary of their debut album, My Head Is an Animal. The band has achieved huge levels of success, both at home and abroad. Quite the leap since they first won Músíktilraunir – Iceland’s very own Battle of the Bands competition – in 2010. 

Who are other popular Icelandic musicians?

Outside the world of pop music, the late Jóhann Jóhannsson was among Iceland’s better known composers. He created soundtracks to many acclaimed movies, including The Theory Of Everything (2014), Sicario (2015), Arrival (2016), and Mandy (2018). 

2024 Grammy-winner, Laufey Lín Bing Jónsdóttir – known simply as Laufey – is the latest big star out of Iceland. At fifteen years old, she performed as part of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra on the cello before making a name for herself on talent-based reality shows, Iceland’s Got Talent and The Voice: Iceland. She has since released two acclaimed soulful-jazz albums, Everything I Know About Love (2022) and Bewitched (2023).

Music Festivals in Iceland 

Iceland Airwaves 2018
Photo: Golli. Iceland Airwaves 2018

By now, we’ve covered that the Icelanders not only have a great passion for music, but also an innate talent. No wonder then that this island puts on many excellent festivals throughout the year. Some are focused on local artists. Others pul in bigger acts from around the world. 

Iceland Airwaves is a mix of the two. For four days in early November, both new and beloved acts grace venues all across Reykjavík. It’s an event that provide festival-goers with more intimate performances than they might otherwise find elsewhere. Previous stars from abroad include Fatboy Slim, The Kills, Ratatat, Yoko Ono, and Sinéad O’Connor. As far as local talent goes, the bigger names from form line-ups include Björk, GusGus, Hatari, and Daði Freyr. 

Fans of electronic music – experimental, techno, or house – will want to book tickets for Sónar Reykjavík. On the other end of the musical, and geographical, scale, Eistnaflug Festival showcases the best of Icelandic Heavy-Metal, held in the tiny eastern town of Neskaupstaður each year. 

There are many other small festivals that take place throughout the year, counting Reykjavík Folk Festival, Reykjavík Jazz Festival, and Nordic Music Days.

Icelandic Film & Television 

Still shot from 'Against the Ice'
Photo: Icelandic Film Centre. Still from ‘Against the Ice’

Compared to other countries, Iceland has what is still considered to be a burgeoning film and television industry. But, of course, that’s not to say there are not a wealth of locally-made films and shows worthy of a mention.

Cinema in Iceland 

 

Nowadays, Baltasar Kormákur is considered Iceland’s most-acclaimed film director. Breaking through, his first major film was 101 Reykjavík, a dark romantic comedy set in Reykjavík, and released in 2000. Two years later, he directed another Icelandic film called The Sea, which dealt with the personal issues of a wealthy fishing family. 

Following these local productions, Kormákur began to direct films for international audiences. A Little Trip to Heaven, starring Forest Whitakker and Jeremy Renner, was released in 2005. One year later, he directed the crime-film Jar City (Mýrin), based on the aforementioned Arnaldur Indriðason novel. 

More recently, viewers will know him as the director of films like Everest (2015) and 2 Guns (2013), as well as the creator of the show Trapped and the Netflix-production, Katla

 

Another important Icelandic director is Friðrik Þór Friðriksson, who shot such local classics as Children of Nature (Börn náttúrunnar, 1991,) the only Icelandic film ever to be nominated for an Academy Award. He is also the mind behind the influential music documentary, Rock in Reykjavík (Rokk í Reykjavík, 1981.)

In the last couple of decades, there have been other notable films out of Iceland, including Of Horses and Men (Hross í oss, 2013,) Rams (Hrútar, 2015,) Woman at War (Kona fer í stríð, 2018,) Metalhead (Málmhaus, 2013,) and Under the Tree (Undir trénu, 2017.)

Iceland in Hollywood movies

Many Hollywood films have used Iceland as a filming location. Some have even gone so far as to make it the major setting. Two great examples where Iceland played a major role are the Ben Stiller comedy drama, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013) and the Will Ferrell – Rachel McAdams comedy, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (2020.) 

However, in terms of pure setting, you can spot Iceland in such films as James Bond: Die Another Day (2002,) Justice League (2017,) The Fate of the Furious (2017,) Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015,) and many, many more. 

The Best TV Shows from Iceland 

Ráðherrann The Minister Ólafur Darri
Photo: Sagafilm/Facebook. Actor Óafur Darri of “Trapped” fame in 2020 TV series “The Minister”

One of the best known television dramas to come out of Iceland over the last few years is the crime-noir series, Trapped, starring the trio of acclaimed locally-born actors, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Ilmur Kristjánsdóttir, and Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson. The show was developed by Baltasar Kormákur, and ran for three seasons. As of now, there is no word as to whether the show will return, but fans across the world are eagerly awaiting news. 

In the meantime, there is another beloved crime show that does not stray far from the Icelandic ambience. The fourth season of US-drama, True Detective, stars Jodie Foster and used Iceland as its primary shooting location, standing in for the US state of Alaska. Thanks to the dark ambience and snowy setting, only eagle-eyed viewers will be able to discern which places in Iceland the show was filmed.

Film Festivals in Iceland

 

We now know about Iceland’s contributions to the big screen. Little surprise then that there are many great film festivals held throughout the year. Founded in 2004, Reykjavík International Film Festival (RIFF) is the biggest, running for 11-days each year. The festival awards the prestigious Golden Puffin to the discovery of the year, as voted for by an international jury. 

Other important cinematic events that take place each year include: Stockfish Film Festival. Northern Wave International Film Festival.  Akureyri International Film Festival (AKIFF).

Icelandic Art 

 

There are a number of famous artists who have lived and worked in Iceland. These include the pop-art maestro, Erró, the expressionist painter, Nína Tryggvadóttir, and the acclaimed sculptor, Einar Jónsson. Frankly, there are so many Icelandic artists in circulation that writing them all here would be impossible. A better option would be to get involved in Iceland’s art scene yourself.

One way to do this is to pop into the many galleries and art shops found around the country. Also, Reykjavík Arts Festival (Listahátíð Reykjavíkur) is a fantastic stop for those seeking to know how the Icelanders creatively express themselves. Founded in 1970, the festival is a biennial event held in June. 

Art Museums in Iceland 

Hafnarhús art museum
Photo: Golli. Hafnarhús is one of the museums in Reykjavík

Art-lovers will find many places across Iceland to appreciate the beauty of local work. For example, the National Gallery of Iceland, Reykjavík Art Museum, and the Living Art Museum are all fantastic locations to appreciate classic and modern art pieces. 

When it comes to sculpture, visitors should stop by the Einar Jónsson Museum (Listasafn Einars Jónssonar). It is located nearby to the iconic Hallgrímskirkja church, making it a quick stop downtown. 

And for those interested in how the camera makes its own contribution to Icelandic culture? The Reykjavík Museum of Photography boasts a collection of over 6-million images. Many of these document the development this nation from the 17th century to now. 

In North Iceland, pay a visit to places like Akureyri Art Museum or the Icelandic Folk and Outsider Art Museum.

Icelandic Architecture 

Reykjavík from above, housing crisis Iceland
Photo: Golli. Reykjavík from above.

Many of Iceland’s most well-known buildings were designed by the State Architect, Guðjón Samúelsson, who studied in Copenhagen. As such, there are many different styles of architecture found in Iceland. Almost all of thenm have been inspired by fellow Scandinavians.

While sovereign over the island, the Danish brought classical timber construction techniques. The Norwegians brought the Swiss chalet style. The vibrant, corrugated iron homes in the capital had their materials imported from England. The suburbs, dense with boxy, Soviet-style residences, are quick and cost-efficient to build. 

But if you’d like to take a step back in history and see how the Icelanders took to architecture themselves, one excellent place to visit is Árbær Open Air Museum (Árbæjarsafn.) It is a permanent exhibition hosted by the Reykjavík City Museum. This cool outdoor attraction presents the chance to see how buildings and homes in Iceland might have looked in earlier centuries. Both inside and out.   

Traditional Turf houses in Iceland 

Turf mounds in Iceland
Photo: Golli. The remains of turf houses in Iceland.

Many Icelanders once lived in abodes built symbiotically within the landscape. These are known as turf houses, or torfbaeir. Their sloped rooftops are composed of grass. Their structure timber and stone. All of which helps to insulate the interior and provide much-needed warmth during the freezing Icelandic winters. 

The hobbit-style homes were primarily used during the Settlement Era. Between the 9th – 11th centuries. But they were still built as far as the 1700s. Oftentimes, they were used as shelter by farming families, demonstrating just how resourceful the early Icelanders could be when faced with the adverse environment in which they lived. 

Today, many turf houses are preserved as part of Iceland’s cultural heritage. Many have even been converted to local museums. You can appreciate these quaint hovels at the Árbaer Open Air Museum in Reykjavík, at Laufás in North Iceland. On the South Coast, you could stop at Skogar Museum or the picturesque Commonwealth farm, Þjóðveldisbærinn. 

Hallgrímskirkja 

Hallgrímskirkja lutheran church in Iceland
Photo: Hallgrímskirkja church in Reykjavík

Dedicated to Iceland’s most beloved poet, Hallgrímur Pétursson, Reykjavík’s best known landmark is Hallgrímskirkja Lutheran Church. 

Designed by the acclaimed State Architect, Guðjón Samúelsson, work began on the church in 1945 and ended in 1986. It towers over the quaint corrugated-iron houses of downtown, its curving basalt columns and large clock face a permanent presence. 

Admission to the main church building is free. Climbing its 74.5 m steeple costs an additional 1000 ISK for adults. 100 kr for children between the ages 7-16. Those who remain at ground-level can appreciate the building’s exquisite interior, as well as its gigantic pipe organ. Only those in the tower are privy to panoramic views of the city and its surrounding mountains and ocean. 

Harpa Concert Hall 

Harpa building in Reykjavík
Photo: Golli. Harpa concert hall.

Hallgrímskirkja captures a beautiful fusion of nature-style architecture and regal prestige. Harpa Concert Hall sits at the other end of the spectrum. Almost as though it was snatched directly from some science-fiction movie. As such, it is one of Reykjavík’s most recognisable boxy-blue designs with a glittering glass-paned exterior. Harpa Concert Hall has won countless architectural awards since first opening its doors in 2011.

Harpa not only attracts a wide range of international stars to its stages, but it is the permanent home of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, the Icelandic Opera and Reykjavík’s Big Band. Aside from these acts, Harpa also hosts various conferences and awards shows throughout the year.

Sports in Iceland 

Football team
Photo: Golli. Jóhann Berg

Many Icelanders prioritise fitness in their lives, with some – such as the titan-like strongmen, Jón Páll Sigmarsson or Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson – taking their passion for health to mind-boggling extremes. But aside from bodybuilding, there are many other forms of athleticism that are widely popular across the country.   

Glima – Iceland’s version of wrestling 

 

The ancient combat sport, Glima, originated in Norway, travelling with migrants to Iceland during the Settlement Period. Opponents grip a specially-made belt that wraps around the waist and thigh. Then they attempt to wrestle each other to the ground by tripping and throwing. As popular as when Icelanders were first learning to live in this new land, tournaments are still held every year. 

Handball in Iceland 

Handball
Ómar Ingi trying to break down the Danish defense (HSÍ / Facebook page)

To the laymen, handball looks to be a peculiar, some might say, overtly European version of basketball. As Iceland’s national sport, handball continues to be of great interest to the Icelanders, and is often touted as the game they are the most skilled at when facing off against international competitors. 

The national governing body is the Icelandic Handball Association, organising leagues for both men’s and women’s teams. The Icelanders’ greatest achievement in the sport came during the 2008 Summer Olympics where they earned a Silver medal.

Football in Iceland 

 

Football is also popular in Iceland. A great number of local teams compete as part of the Football Association of Iceland (Knattspyrnusamband Íslands, KSÍ.) 

Representing the men’s team, Iceland national football arguably had its heyday in the late 2010s, defeating England 2-1 in the 16th round of Euro 2016. It was during this time that a thunderous football chant, the Viking Clap, was popularised. It has since been adopted by many international fans supporting other national teams. 

Modern Politics in Iceland 

Alþingishúsið
Photo: Golli. Alþingishúsið parliament building

Iceland is a democratic republic, with the President being Head of State and the Prime Minister acting as the Head of Government. Among the planet’s younger nations, Iceland gained its independence from Denmark on June 17 1944. 

The major government building, the Alþingishúsið, stands at Austurvöllur square in central Reykjavík. The iconic white building that is the Prime Minister’s office, known locally as the Stjórnarráðið, sits on the major thoroughfare, Lækjartorg, near to Harpa Concert Hall. 

Equality 

Rainbow flags Höfði homophobia iceland
Photo: Golli. Rainbow flags at Höfði House

Modern Icelanders place a great emphasis on equality measures, looking to legally protect those often considered disenfranchised by society. 
In the global rankings, Iceland ranks well in terms of gender equality; a result not only of government initiatives, but also the thousands of women who have refused to accept unequal pay. It is little wonder Iceland was the first country to democratically elect a female President, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, in 1980. 

The famous Women’s Day Out protest occurred October 24 1975. It marked the first time that women walked out of the workplace to fight for their rights. Every year since, the tradition has been continued, shining a light on issues that still need to be resolved. 

Iceland was also one of the first countries to allow gay marriage, legalising it in 2010. Today, Iceland is considered a world leader in regards to LGBTQ+ policies and representation. Have you seen the colourful and accepting Pride Parade that takes place in Reykjavík annually? Rainbow flags aplenty!

Iceland also has a strong unionised workforce. These unions have guaranteed rights in regards to parental leave, both for the mother and father. In doing so, they promote a more egalitarian approach to dividing domestic responsibilities and child care. 

In Summary 

Reykjavík skyline
Photo: Golli. Reykjavík from the water.

Let’s finish this rather meaty overview of Icelandic culture. There is nothing much left to say except that reading will only get you far. So, make sure to break up your time seeing Iceland’s natural wonders by exploring its culture too.  You might learn more about why it is such an engaging place to visit and live. 

Deep North Episode 59: Turf and Rescue

turf house farm iceland

Hannes Lárusson grew up in a cluster of turf houses on the farmstead Austur-Meðalholt in Southwest Iceland.

His ancestors moved there around 1850. The houses they constructed were made with the remnants of the land’s pre-existing houses, which slouched near the marshes when they arrived. The history of the farmstead stretches nearly as far back as the settlement.

In 1965, when he was ten years old, Hannes moved to Reykjavík. He studied visual art and philosophy in Iceland and abroad prior to redirecting his attention to his childhood home in the mid-80s.

By that time, the turf houses of Austur-Meðalholt were abandoned and on the verge of ruin. Although he had observed those houses being mended as a boy, he lacked the know-how to rebuild them himself; and so Hannes and his family enlisted the aid of Jóhannes Arason, a turf master who grew up in the Westfjords’ Gufudalssveit area, and who stayed with them for parts of the summer between 1987 and 1993.

Read the story here.

Keeping in Step

Icelandic folk dancing, Árbæjarsafn

It was a Friday night in Reykjavík, and I was looking for a dance floor. You may expect, dear reader, that I was on my way to one of the dimly lit clubs that line Laugavegur street, where young bodies sway to pulsing, electronic beats. Actually, I was heading somewhere entirely different: to a wood-panelled […]

This content is only visible under subscription. Subscribe here or log in.

Continue reading

2023 in Review: Culture

Diljá Pétursdóttir iceland eurovision

As the year draws to a close, Iceland Review brings you a summary of the biggest stories in community, culture, and nature in 2023. Here are some of the biggest culture-related stories from the year.

Laufey Sets New Jazz Standard

It’s been a big year for Icelandic musician Laufey. In September, Laufey’s sophomore album, Bewitched, set a record for the most streams in the jazz category on Spotify on its day of release, accumulating 5.7 million streams. The previous record was held by Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett’s 2021 album Love for Sale, which received 1.1 million streams on its first day. Bewitched features the British Philharmonic Orchestra on two of its tracks and consists mostly of original compositions, along with one cover song.

On November 10, Laufey released two Christmas songs in collaboration with Norah Jones, a cover of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas and an original composition entitled Better Than Snow. Both of the songs were recorded in a single take.

 On the same day that the duets with Norah Jones were released, Laufey announced to the crowd at the Paramount Theatre in Austin, Texas, that she had received her first Grammy nomination (for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album): “I especially love Austin now because this will forever be the city where I found out that I received a Grammy nomination,” Laufey remarked.

Laufey is the artistic mononym of Icelander Laufey Lín Jónsdóttir. A former cello soloist and talent show finalist, Laufey graduated from Berklee College of Music. She released her debut EP, Typical of Me, in 2021.

Power Outage: Diljá Misses Out on Eurovision Finals

Earlier this year, Diljá Pétursdóttir was chosen to represent Iceland in the 67th annual Eurovision Song Contest. Diljá, a long-time Eurovision fan, went on to perform her energetic ballad, aptly named Power (co-written by Pálmi Ragnar Ásgeirsson), during the second semi-final night of the Eurovision Song Contest. It took place in Liverpool on May 11, and ten entries advanced to the final. Despite Diljá’s performance receiving favourable reviews from Icelanders, she did not advance to the finals.

Read More: Power Player (Brief Profile of Diljá Pétursdóttir in Iceland Review)

Diljá spoke to Eurovision commentator Sigurður Gunnarsson for the National Broadcaster (RÚV) following her performance. Despite failing to qualify, she was pleased with her performance: “It went amazingly well.”

Icelandic Lamb Receives Protected Status

In March, the European Commission approved the first-ever Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) from Iceland for Icelandic lamb (ice. Íslenskt lambakjöt). The product name is applied to the meat from purebred Icelandic lambs, which have been born, raised, and slaughtered on the island of Iceland. The designation is the same type granted to champagne and means that no product that does not fulfil the above conditions can be labelled as Icelandic lamb.

Read More: Labour of Love (A Profile of a Young Farmer)

“Sheep farming has a long and rich cultural tradition in Iceland,” a notice from the European Commission read. “The characteristics of ‘Íslenskt lambakjöt’ first and foremost consists [sic] of a high degree of tenderness and gamey taste, due to the fact that lambs roam freely in demarcated wild rangelands and grow in the wild, natural surroundings of Iceland, where they feed on grass and other plants. The long tradition of sheep farming passing down generations on the island has led to high standards of flock management and grazing methods.”

Trouble at the Opera

On Saturday, March 3, the Icelandic Opera premiered its production of Madame Butterfly, authored by Italian composer Giacomo Puccini and first performed publicly in 1904. Three days after the premiere, Laura Liu, a Chinese-American violinist for the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, published a post on Facebook in which she accused individuals involved in the production of yellowface (i.e. where a non-Asian performer uses makeup to make their skin look yellow in order to portray an Asian character). Liu shared pictures of the performers, who were shown wearing makeup, including painted-on black eyebrows and black wigs: 

“Are we bringing yellowface back, Iceland?” Liu asked. “Furthermore, Madame Butterfly is Japanese. Those are Chinese characters. ‘All look [the] same,’ right? It’s disturbing to have to repeat this: yellowing up is the same as blacking up. When you wear another race as your costume that’s called dehumanisation. Do better.”

On March 9, Steinunn Birna Ragnarsdóttir, Director of the Icelandic Opera, addressed accusations of racism and cultural appropriation in an interview with the radio programme Reykjavík Síðdegis. 

Steinunn iterated some of the points made by her colleague Michiel Dijkema: “I was very clear about not using yellowface in this production,” Steinunn stated, adding that the producers had taken “different routes” to make the production believable, Kabuki makeup, for example.

When asked what she made of the accusations, Steinunn replied: “We celebrate this discussion and listen with an open mind to these different perspectives.”

On Saturday, March 11, Steinunn Birna was interviewed by the nightly news, in which she stated that a few minor changes would be made: “We had a good meeting yesterday with the performers, and the director, where we listened to their experience. We decided that we would tone down the makeup. Even though we believed that we had not been guilty of yellowface, we decided to remove painted-on, slanted eyebrows and wigs, for such a thing would not serve to detract from the overall performance. There are two guidelines that I follow: that my people feel good, and making a good show even better. 

Háskólabíó Movie Theatre Shuttered

The Icelandic company Sena cancelled its contract for the operation of a cinema in the Háskólabíó theatre as as of July 1 of this year. Konstantín Mikaelsson, Manager of Sena’s Film Division, told the media that Sena’s decision was informed by increased consumer demands for facilities and declining attendance.

Sena has managed the operation of Háskólabíó since 2007, but Háskólbíó’s history stretches back to the year 1961. During the first decades, the theatre featured a single large auditorium. Smaller auditoriums were later added. The building was the main concert hall of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra for years until the Harpa Music and Conference Hall was put into use in 2011.

In addition to film screenings, Háskólabíó has been the venue for university classes, concerts, and various events. In June, Guðmundur R. Jónsson, Director of Administration of the University of Iceland, told the media that the university would likely continue to use the building for concerts, conferences, meetings, and teaching.

Deep North Episode 55: Christmas Craftsman

laufabrauð christmas iceland

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, families and friends in Iceland come together to make the traditional fried and decorated wafer known as laufabrauð (leaf bread). Rolled out thin, decorated, and fried, the preparation of these treats is an event that brings together families, often with multiple generations taking part. But you won’t find Laufabrauðsdagur (Leaf Bread Day) on any official calendar, as each family chooses their own date. Still, for Icelanders, it’s as much a part of the holiday season as Christmas itself.

But unknown even to many Icelanders, much of this tradition now rests in the hands of one craftsman, the last craftsman in Iceland to make the distinctive roller that so many use to make laufabrauð. A stone’s throw from Reykjavík, in the shadow of Esja mountain, his small workshop is keeping a beloved tradition alive.

Read the story here.