Saturday, 22 January 2011

Greenland blog 14: arts centre med kaffemik

Folk dancing, Nuuk arts centre, Greenland. Image copyright Margaret Sharrow, 2008.

I always like to check out galleries and arts centres when I travel, not just because I’m an artist (although that is the main draw), but also because they often have good places to eat with an interesting atmosphere. I must admit to being spoiled, living as I do with the Aberystwyth Arts Centre on my doorstep, with three galleries, an excellent and filling salad bar in the main café, and even better treats in the Piazza Café downstairs, such as the salmon and cream cheese wraps and tasty pizza. And no visit to the Tate is complete without either shooting up the elevator to the fabulous views of the Thames over a mocha at Tate Modern, or, ideally, savouring devilled kidneys on toast with a glass of wine at the Rex Whistler Restaurant at Tate Britain (to say nothing of the possibilities of a drink on the sunny terrace overlooking Porthmeor Beach at Tate St Ives!) So naturally, when I stumbled on the ultramodern arts centre in Nuuk, with its distinctive exterior, undulating waves of smooth wood simulating the face of a glacier, I had to investigate.

And boy was I rewarded: the interior atrium, with its soaring ceiling and glass walls, was as funky as its exterior. There seemed to be a full programme of cinema, mixing popular releases with a few more arthouse offerings. However I never made it upstairs in search of galleries because I was detained by the cafe. I chose something from the tempting array of cakes, a moist carrot cake I think, but the star of the show was definitely the hot chocolate. Served in a tall glass, heaped with whipped cream, the chocolate was rich, the cream was the excellent Danish silky dairy, and there was more than a note of nutmeg. I honestly have never had such excellent hot chocolate in my life, thick as a sweet soup without being in the least cloying.

The next day I was back, late in the afternoon, wondering what cake to choose to accompany other glass of heaven. In the kind of dumb luck that is often a tourist’s serendipity, I didn’t have to choose: it turned out to be a demonstration of Greenlandic folk dancing, accompanied by that wonderful Greenlandic tradition of the kaffemik, the coffee-chat, usually taking place in people’s homes and thus difficult for the foreigner to encounter without tourist office mediation. But here was something obviously laid on for families and friends who had come to see the dozen or so dancers, ranging in age from about thirteen to retirement. And what a spread! Tables groaning with the full range of the cafe’s best cakes, accompanied by endless flasks of strong dark coffee. Here was a blessed chance to compare the fruit tarts, the rich chocolate cake frosted with dark chocolate, and the light heaven that was the raspberry pavlova (probably my personal favourite).

I just had time to settle myself into a corner with a good view of the action when the dancing started. The music was not dissimilar to what you would hear at a Scottish reel, a lot of jigs and toe-tappers in 3/4 or 6/8 time. They jumped, they jigged, they do-si-doed, they did a variant on strip the willow, they stamped, the held hands and galloped in a circle. And me? My hands flew over my shutter and zoom, quickly rejecting freeze frames that captured people in the uninteresting junctions between movements in favour of an evocative blur. I’m still thinking of how to weave them together in a video. I know, it’s been over two years, I should just get on with it. But first, I’ll need to track down suitable music. Luckily I know just the person to write to... but that will have to wait for another posting.

29 August 2008 16:37 recalled 18 January 2011


and stay tuned for another episode tomorrow!

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