Greenland mask dance

By Verified Expert

The 21st of December is the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. After this date, the Sun shines longer for those places south of the Arctic circle, and the brightness during the “day” starts to increase for locations north, even though the Sun doesn’t actually rise above the horizon. Depending on exactly how far north you are, the first glimpses of the Sun itself begin in January as the transition to the opposite extreme (the Midnight Sun) begins again. 

The winter darkness and cold polar nights in Greenland can be tough, but also very cozy and entertaining!

Uaajeerneq – Greenland Mask Dance

Uaajeerneq (the Greenland Mask Dance) is an important part of the traditional Greenlandic culture that was originally used during the darkness of winter for entertainment, seduction, and fun. It was also used to scare kids to prepare them for a future that may be unsettling from time to time.

The three colors of the mask represent the following:

  • Black: magic and the unknown 
  • Red: life, love, and temperament
  • White: the bones of our ancestors and purity

In addition, a Greenlandic mask dancer has a stick in their mouth, symbolizing the balls of the male, while their forehead is painted as a red triangle to represent a female’s sexual organ.

Girl with mask

Each person makes their own mask design and paints it the same way every time. 

Learning the Mask Dance

Josepha is a friend of mine who attended a workshop in Greenlandic mask dance workshop in 2015. She is one of few in Greenland who can showcase this old tradition of ours, which was abandoned (and almost lost) when Christianity came to our country. 

Josepha tells: “It was something that I’ve wanted to do ever since I was a child. I remember being fascinated (and mostly scared) when I saw the dance. I always wanted to tell the story of my country, but Greenlandic traditional culture is not something we learned in school. So I took it into my own hands.”

She has started her own entertainment business called Inua Arctica. “Inua” means “the soul” or “the resident.” 

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