Statue of Danish-Norwegian coloniser vandalised in Greenland

Activists want the statue and a similar one in Copenhagen removed to “stop paying tribute to colonisers”

The statue of a Danish-Norwegian coloniser and priest was vandalised in Greenland on Sunday as advocates called for its removal, contending that it exacerbated the trauma of the island’s colonial past.

Activists poured red paint on the statue of Hans Egede and wrote “Decolonize” on it – significantly on the eve of Greenland’s National Day, according to police in Greenland’s capital Nuuk.

The act follows a global anti-statue campaign arising from the Black Lives Matter movement that targets monuments to slave traders and colonisers. The campaign stemmed from outrage over the death of African-American man George Floyd and the racial injustice his killing exposed.

Inuit eyes
Egede became known as the man who colonised Greenland from 1721, working to Christianise the population and going by the nickname ‘the Apostle of Greenland’, according to of Aarhus University.

The identities of the vandals are unknown, but fellow activists have supported their move, saying it was time to “stop paying tribute to colonisers” and instead acknowledge the trauma of Greenland’s indigenous Inuit people.

“Many view Hans Egede as a rescuer of me and my people, but that is not the case. He was a terrible man. He did not see my people as people but as resources. We need to start telling the story from our eyes: from the eyes of the Inuit,” activist Aqqalu Berthelsen told TV2.

Contested legacy
Egede’s legacy is controversial with some historians crediting him for preventing Greenland from being a British colony, while Inuit activists say his statue represents the silencing of indigenous people across generations.

There is another statue of Egede in front of Marmorkirken in Copenhagen that activists want removed.