Newest Art Museum in Iceland, Djúpivogur’s ARS LONGA, to Open This Saturday

Djúpivogur is home to Iceland's latest art museum

ARS LONGA, a museum for contemporary art, will open in Djúpivogur this Saturday, July 9.

Headlining the museum’s opening will be the exhibitions Rúllandi snjóbolti (Rolling Snowball) and Tímamót (Turning Point).

Rolling Snowball is a collaboration between ARS LONGA and the Chinese European Art Center (CEAC) in Xiamen, China. Further support for the exhibition comes from Múlaþing and the Visual Arts Fund. Both exhibits will run throughout the summer.

The new museum will be housed in Djúpivogur’s Vogshús, which was agreed upon as the new exhibition space in an arrangement made last March.

The heart of the new museum, and reason for its location in Djúpivogur, are the works of Sigurður Guðmundsson. Sigurður is perhaps best known for his work, The Eggs in Gleðivík, which consists of an array of 34 concrete replicas of bird eggs.

Those interested can find the event information here.

Sculpture Will Be Relocated Following Fatal Accident

An outdoor artwork in the East Iceland town of Djúpivogur will be relocated following a fatal accident. A tourist in his 60s died after being run over by a construction vehicle at the site of the much-visited art installation by Sigurður Guðmundsson. Sigurður and Björn Ingimarsson, mayor of Múlaþing municipality, decided at a meeting last week that the artwork would be relocated to another seaside location within the town.

The harbour area of Djúpivogur, where the man was run over, is the site of ongoing construction. A rope had been installed to separate pedestrians from vehicular traffic, but it had been removed at the time of the accident due to construction activities. “It is, however, not certain that this fixture would have prevented the accident that occurred, as those who visit the site are not all using the walking path that is marked and so it is our consensus that the removal of the artwork from the area is necessary,” a notice from the municipality states.

“We mourn the tragic accident that happened by the artwork and want to do everything in our power to prevent something like this from happening again,” the notice underlines.

The artwork consists of 34 oversized birds’ eggs of polished stone. When it was originally installed, in 2009, there was little traffic in the harbour of Djúpivogur. The site has since become a hub of industrial activity, which is set to increase in the near future.

Tourist Death in Djúpivogur, Southeast Iceland

Djúpivogur - eggin í Gleðivík

Safety matters are being reviewed in the town of Djúpivogur, Southeast Iceland, after the death of a foreign tourist there yesterday, RÚV reports. The man was in his sixties and was on a walk with relatives when he was run over by a construction vehicle. A priest attended to witnesses and the man’s relatives received trauma assistance from the Red Cross at Egilsstaðir, East Iceland later that day.

Heavy foot and vehicular traffic

The harbour area of Djúpivogur where the man was run over is the site of ongoing construction, as well as the site of a much-visited sculpture installation. The sculpture, by Sigurður Guðmundsson, consists of a row of oversized bird eggs carved in stone and placed along the shore. When it was installed in 2009, there was little industrial activity in the harbour and therefore less traffic.

Since that time, however, both tourist and industrial activity have increased at the site, leading to more vehicular and foot traffic. A rope had been installed to separate pedestrians from vehiclular traffic, but it had been removed at the time of the accident. According to residents of the town, the rope had been removed due to construction activities.

Authorities are reviewing safety protocols at the site and whether to install additional signage.

Ambitious Plans to Expand Fish Farming in East Iceland

fish farming iceland

East Iceland’s aquaculture industry is set to expand significantly in the next few years, with more fish farms and a packaging plant in the works in locations such as Djúpivogur and Seyðisfjörður. RÚV reports that Norwegian company Måsøval has acquired a controlling share of aquaculture in the region and is calling for renovations to Egilsstaðir airport that would allow it to export salmon directly from the region to Asia and North America. Some East Iceland residents are, however, unhappy with the planned developments.

Development in Djúpivogur

Norwegian company, Måsøval, has bought a majority share of Fiskeldi Austfjarða from a former (also Norwegian) shareholder. Måsøval already holds majority ownership of Laxar, the other aquaculture company operating in East Iceland, and therefore now controls the majority of aquaculture in the region. This acquisition paves the way for the two companies to collaborate more in the future or possibly even merge.

The two companies already run a joint slaughterhouse for farmed salmon in Djúpivogur, called Búlandstindur, where they have invested in sorting and packaging equipment that processes 20 boxes of fish per minute. Búlandstindur CEO Elís Hlynur Grétarsson says further expansion is planned at the company, which expects to process 12,000 tonnes of salmon this year and 15,000-16,000 next year.

The plant currently has to transport polystyrene boxes from Hafnarfjörður but plans to build a facility in Djúpivogur to make the packaging locally. They also hope to be able to export the salmon from nearby Egilsstaðir airport rather than transporting it across the country to Keflavík as they do now. Transporting the salmon by land to Keflavík “is rather costly, according to Elís, who says “Our biggest dream is that there would be international flights from Egilsstaðir. Especially longer routes such as to America and Asia. All that is needed is to build up the airport in Egilsstaðir. First and foremost, I think the runway needs to be a little longer.” Other seafood companies in the region would no doubt benefit from such a possibility as well.

Seyðisfjörður Residents Oppose Fish Farm in Fjord

Some local residents are not happy with Fiskeldi Austfjarða’s plans to establish more fish farms in the region, RÚV reports. A group of residents in Seyðisfjörður is collecting signatures in opposition to a planned 10,000 tonne salmon farm in the picturesque fjord.

Benedikta Guðrún Svavarsdóttir and Bergný Guðmundsdóttir, who run the hostel Hafaldan in Seyðisfjörður, are behind the petition. They have been making the rounds to collect signatures and say that it has been going well. “The vast majority of people said thank you for coming and signed,” Benedikta stated. “The had informed themselves on the matter and were quite adamant that this was not the future of Seyðisfjörður. Not of benefit to Seyðisfjörður.”

Opposition to the fish farms in Seyðisfjörður centres on their visual impact, which some argue would spoil the experience for the fjord’s many visitors, particularly those who arrive on the Norræna ferry, which connects Seyðisfjörður with the Faroe Islands and Nordic region. “They don’t go together,” Benedikta stated.

Statue to Honour the First Black Man to Settle in Iceland

Djúpivogur is home to Iceland's latest art museum

Like many countries around the world, Iceland has been touched by the Black Lives Matter movement and has been undergoing a moment of self-examination and reckoning as regards the realities of police relations with the public, racism, and inequality in its own society. As statues honouring the lives and legacies of colonisers and slaveowners are removed throughout the US and Europe, RÚV reports that Independence Party deputy MP Vilhjálmur Bjarnason has proposed that Iceland put one up: a statue to honour the life and legacy of Hans Jónatan, thought to be the first Black man to settle in Iceland.

Hans Jónatan lived a remarkable life. He was born into slavery in 1784 on the Caribbean island of St. Croix, then under Danish colonial rule. His mother was Emilía Regína, an enslaved African woman on a sugar plantation owned by a family named Schimmelman. His father is believed to be of European heritage.

See Also: Reconstructed Genome of Iceland’s First Black Settler

As a child, Hans Jónatan was taken to Denmark, where he lived in Copenhagen for ten years, even enlisting in the Danish Navy in 1801. Following his return from service, his superior officers advocated on his behalf to Denmark’s crown prince Frederik, who wrote a letter affirming that Hans Jónatan was “considered free and enjoys rights.” Nevertheless, the Schimmelmans tried to forcibly return Hans Jónatan to St. Croix. He asserted his freedom in Danish court, but for reasons currently unknown, could not produce the letter from Denmark’s future king and his case was dismissed.

As such, Hans Jónatan escaped to the fishing village of Djúpivogur in East Iceland in 1802, where he eventually married, had three children (two of whom survived), and ran the local trading post. He died in 1827.

“It matters how this is done”

“I hope that the MPs go through with erecting a monument [to Háns Jónatan in Djúpivogur],” remarked anthropologist Gísli Pálsson, who wrote a biography (translated by Anna Yates) about Hans Jónatan called The Man Who Stole Himself. “I can recall conversations with locals who want to honour his memory in some way. There’s definitely a demand for it.” Gísli notes that tour guides in the area are often asked about Hans Jónatan but there’s not much to show visitors. “There’s little to be seen about him outside the memorial in the cemetery where he was lain to rest somewhere in an unmarked grave.”

“I think it’s about time to put up a monument to him,” continued Gísli, “but it matters how this is done.” It’s important, said Gísli, to consider what’s being memorialised. “Is it his skin colour, his enslavement, his career, or his character?”

Hans Jónatan “Chose Freedom”

It’s important, said Gísli, to recognise Hans Jónatan’s character, his descendants, and the history of enslaved people who pushed and strove for justice. He stresses Hans’s agency, and emphasises that he “chose freedom.” While many have disparaged Gísli’s choice of words in this regards, arguing that enslaved peoples didn’t have choice, he considers it hugely important that pervading notions that the white elite in the US, the UK, and Denmark were the driving forces behind abolition be challenged; really, he says, it was pressure from the enslaved peoples themselves that led to slavery being abolished. “It’s an objection to this cliché that intellectuals in the United States, in their benevolence, eased laws [legalising slavery].”

A statue to Háns Jónatan, done well, would be a monument to the man himself, Gisli continues, but also more. “He has a thousand descendants and their story is remarkable. Many of those in the second and third generation had to struggle with adversity. A monument would also honour these people and speak to the present moment that we are living in. We would be memorialising these people and their fates no less than Háns Jónatan and his story.”

Easterners “Celebrate the Darkness” with a Horror Movie Theatre in a Sheep Shed

Teigarhorn, a farm in Berufjörður in East Iceland, is renowned for its zeolite crystals and is, in fact, a designated natural monument and nature reserve. But, RÚV reports, during the annual Dagar myrkurs, or Days of Darkness festival, it’s also host to an entirely different kind of attraction: a horror-movie theatre in a sheep shed.

The horror-movie theatre is the brainchild of Teigarhorn caretaker Rúnar Matthíasson and his wife. “I thought it was an absolutely great idea,” remarked Gréta Mjöll Samúelsdóttir, who is the Economic and Cultural representative for the Djúpavogshreppur municipality. “To watch a sort of sinister movie, and to do it in a sheep shed, in the dark, that’s really something – if people dare to come,” she adds.

Rúnar and his fellow theatre organisers set up folding chairs and put up creepy décor around the barn – bodies lying in the hay, skeletons hanging from the rafters, spider webs – and the district council director himself is in charge of making the popcorn.

The Days of Darkness festival, which began in 2000, is “an eastern phenomenon” says Gréta Mjöll and is meant to “… celebrate the darkness” and give locals something fun to do in the long, sunless days that stretch between the end of summer and the start of the Christmas season. The calendar of events spans all over East Iceland and includes activities for people of all ages, such as scary story readings for children, and a nighttime Ghost Walk around the town of Djúpivogur. Local schools even get into the spooky spirit of the festival and plan activities for their students such as slime-making for kindergarteners.

The festival is much-beloved by locals, says Gréta Mjöll, who might otherwise start feeling down during the monotonous winter days. “It does a lot for a town like ours to have some variety, something different to do.”