A GREENLANDIC IDENTITY

It is said that one can recognize the essence of a people through their artwork because they instinctively depict what is central to their lives, and in Greenland the souvenirs tell the story of the country as a pioneering nation.

Ritualistic figures called tupilaks, intricate depictions of hunting and fishing, tools like the woman’s knife called an ulo, and carvings of polar bears, whales, and seals are all evidence of a people with close connection to the natural environment, who have thrived in Greenland by adapting their lives to nature’s way.

“In Ilulissat we went to the craft workshop and saw all the things they were making. They spoke mostly Greenlandic, but we bought some things for the family at home!”

“We visited the arts and crafts workshop in Sisimiut. All the top artists were working there, so we bought some souvenirs. The choices were really great!”

Greenlandic identity is shown not only through the images that souvenirs depict but also through their materials. As sustainable hunters, we only take the animals needed and we use every possible part. The bones and warm fur of Arctic mammals turn into jewelry and clothing, so souvenir shops are stocked with pieces made of reindeer and muskox horn, sealskin, muskox wool, and even polished whale baleen.

Greenlandic identity runs high as souvenirs depict Greenlandic images on the canvas of Greenlandic materials, and the fact that locals themselves proudly wear the same items that travelers buy as souvenirs bears testament to their authenticity.

BREAKING THE MOLD

Authentic comes in more forms than just animal bones. An increasing number of our artists are breaking the mold and putting a creative spin on Greenlandic souvenirs by using plastic, ceramic, or metal materials and by designing fur clothing with the international catwalk in mind. This adaptation of classic elements shows respect for the history that shaped Greenlandic society today while demonstrating that Greenlanders are solid members of the global community.

A rare, but incredibly beautiful, souvenir to find is jewelry made of gold from South Greenland. The production mine is now closed, making the supply of items that resulted from the area quite exclusive. Just imagine bringing your dearest to Greenland and leaving with one of the most unique souvenirs in the world – a set of wedding rings forged by hand out of Greenlandic gold!

  • There are rules regarding which souvenirs made from animal products can be exported from Greenland, and some souvenirs require a CITES permit at no cost to you. For more information, consult an updated CITES page.
  • Where to buy souvenirs: Souvenir shops, handicraft workshops, Kittat Économusée sewing workshop, hotels, tourist offices, and Sarfaq Ittuk, the Arctic Umiaq Line coastal ferry

  • What souvenirs to buy: Artwork and jewelry from local artists; tupilaks; sealskin clothing from Great Greenland; ornaments; statues and figurines carved from soapstone, reindeer horn, muskox horn, whale baleen, or walrus tooth; accessories knit from muskox wool.

KNOW YOUR REINDEER FROM YOUR NARWHAL

With so many souvenir shops to browse and even more souvenirs to mull over, it is easy to want a bit of everything. But there is one thing that helps narrow the difficult decision: The CITES export regulations.

Part of protecting the beautiful Arctic wildlife is keeping some animals sacred to Greenland. Souvenir shops will happily advise you on which items must stay in Greenland and which souvenirs can be yours to cherish forever.