Greenland is Danish, isn’t it? The answer to this question is not as simple as it seems. Although still under Danish sovereignty, Greenland has been granted a high degree of autonomy including self-rule. One sign of Greenland’s autonomy is Erfalasorput, Greenland’s flag of red and white. This standard is now celebrating its 30th birthday.

The national flag of Greenland is an important symbol for Greenlanders and helps to develop their national identity. This is important for a country, which had been under Danish rule for more a long time. Picture: Arctic Journal
The national flag of Greenland is an important symbol for Greenlanders and helps to develop their national identity. This is important for a country, which had been under Danish rule for more a long time. Picture: Arctic Journal

Unlike Denmark and the other Nordic countries, which all feature a cross, Erfalasorput, adopted on Ullortuneq, the national day in 1985, is unique in the region, in that it features a round circle representing the sun. Thue Christensen, the artist who submitted the flag after several previous designs, all versions of the Dannebrog were passed over, described the design as reminiscent of the setting sun half-submerged below the horizon and reflected on the sea. In his design, the white semicircle symbolizes icebergs and pack ice, while the white field represents Greenland’s glaciers and ice cap. The red field symbolizes the ocean.

The original proposals were a reminiscent of the Nordic flags and a tie to the Danish state. Due to the history of Greenland, however, an independent and more representative symbol was chosen.
The original proposals were a reminiscent of the Nordic flags and a tie to the Danish state. Due to the history of Greenland, however, an independent and more representative symbol was chosen.

Greenland was granted home rule in 1979, which devolved administration over domestic affairs to the former colony, which by then had the status of a Danish county. In 2009, it was granted self-rule, an arrangement that, among other details, recognizes its right to declare independence. And while Greenlanders have swapped out both the Dannebrog much of the Danish administration of their country, they have not given up many of the traditions associated with the Danish flag, including using it to it decorate on birthdays, holidays and other festive occasions.

Still, the flag, and its significance, have come to mean something entirely different to Greenlanders than the Dannebrog, according to Kim Kielsen, the premier. “For the new generations that are growing up now, Erfalasorput is as much a part of Greenlandic culture as our language and our traditions,” Mr Kielsen said in a statement. “For those of us who were born in a different era, Erfalasorput has had an enormous impact as a symbol of our path towards a Greenland that can stand on its own two feet.” It is a path that may well see Greenland’s people marching off into sunset envisioned by Mr Christensen.

Source: The Arctic Journal, www.arcticjournal.com