“No man was ever alone on the sea”, wrote Hemingway giving life to the adventure and struggles of the old fisherman Santiago. It seems the Danes learned it since the very beginning of their history.
Some of them claim that they would feel depressive living away from the ocean, others use to go to the harbor or the beaches around the city just to contemplate the landscape.
Coming from South America, I wondered in the first days what would be the heritage of the Vikings and their history sailing and conquering the world. There’s a boat inside of the Lutheran Cathedral and all the symbols of the city are somehow connected to this relationship with the sea. Although, my question was: where are the fishermen in Aarhus?
A look in the history would give me some answers. With the modernization of the city since the 19th Century the small boats and expeditions had to give place for enormous ships and containers – rules of modernity, of trade. The laws have also changed in the last decades and fishing is now only allowed as a sport.
In the middle of this transformation is possible to find old fishermen and their photos of the golden age of fishing. “We used to go to a lot of places in the world, fishing and enjoying the life”, told me Rocky, an old fisherman who works in the harbor. He proudly shows an album, called “Fishing in Aarhus: Photos of Nostalgia”, which made me think that in fact the connection between the lives of the local people and the sea is somewhere between history and nostalgia.
But it is not all gone. As the summer comes, more people go to the harbor to repair their boats and sail around the islands. “We are working on it and hopefully soon we will be able to sail and fish in the north”, told me a young man who spent the whole Sunday fixing his family’s boat.
There are some sailor’s clubs which work as a ‘get together’. In the ‘Træskibsforeningen i Aarhus’ Association, known as TSA, I found a young man called Mike Biro – he is a shipwright and explained me that the old sailors are looking for the engagement of young people. Some people claim there’s a lack of interest by the new generations.
In my exploration I could meet Henning Nielsen, a world traveler and passionate about the sea. In his sixties, he’s one of the men behind ‘the old lady’ Anna Nyborg, a ship built in 1929.
The photos selected for this exhibition is a small fraction of what I lived during the days I spent in the sea and also the way I understood the harbor: from the fish market to the sailors and the clubs.
The truth is that there’s no way to understand Denmark without a deep reflection about their relation with the sea.