Hansen, Lana

Author, environmental activist and multimedia artist born in Qaqortoq (Greenland) in 1970.

Lana Hansen was born in 1970 in Qaqortoq, in southern Greenland, and raised by an Inuit family. As a child, she was cradled by Greenlandic myths and legends, which were introduced at school as well as at home: her mother told her the legend of Inuit sea goddess Sedna, and she was inspired by the tales and songs of Ajarsivasik (literally meaning “the nice fat aunt”), who was a famous storyteller from southern Greenland. Lana Hansen began writing poems and stories in her childhood, admiring the work of other Greenlandic authors, such as Hans Lynge and Ole Korneliussen.

As a young adult, Lana Hansen lived in Nuuk, where she worked as an artist and a self-employed cultural worker, while starting a literary career. In 1992, Ornigisaq, her first children’s book containing poems and short tales, was published by Atuakkiorfik, a publishing house in Nuuk. At the end of the 2000s, Lana Hansen was involved in several projects tackling the protection of the environment and climate change. She took part in the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 15) in Copenhagen (Denmark), presenting a sound and visual installation entitled Ego White Off, a film about climate change in Greenland, displayed on the stretched canvas of traditional Inuit drum.

In 2009, the writing process and environmental activism joined together in Lana Hansen’s career: her children’s tale Sila was published by Milik Publishers of Nuuk in Kalaallisut (Greenlandic language) as Sila : silap pissusiata allanngornera pillugu oqaluttualiaq, and in Danish as Sila - et eventyr om klimaforandringer. Milik published an English translation, Sila: a fable about climate change in 2009. This short tale, endowed with illustrations by Greenlandic artist, novelist and musician Georg Olsen, deals with the issue of climate change through a rewriting of the Sedna myth. Tulugak (meaning “Raven” in Kalaallisut) is a young boy who can turn into a raven. He is asked by the Spirit of the Inland Ice (the central ice cap of Greenland) to intercede with Sedna and save humanity from itself. Lana Hansen was inspired to write this story, by an epiphany on a Nuuk beach, where she was rambling with her daughter Niini Malu Hansen, and the dedicatee of Sila. An eagle, who was eating a lamb’s eyes, frightened Lana Hansen and her daughter, and its penetrating gaze, ordered her to warn future generations from the danger of climate warming.

Sila provided Lana Hansen the opportunity to express with words her great concern about the future of Earth as well as that of Inuit communities, who are, according to Lana Hansen, quite unaware of the climate emergency, since they tie their independence to their country’s industrial development. Sila found recognition throughout the world. In 2010, it was nominated for the Vestnordisk Råds Børne- og Ungdomslitteraturpriset (the West Nordic Council's Children and Youth Literature Prize). Lana Hansen promoted her book at the Expo 2010 in Shanghai China, in 2010, where Lana Hansen led a delegation of three Greenlandic artists, and at different conferences on climate change.

Political recognition has brought literary consecration across circumpolar countries for Lana Hansen, including during the Nordic Library Week 2013, an event held in Scandinavian and Baltic states. New translations of Sila followed. The tale was reprinted in Kalaallisut in 2016, then translated into Northern Sámi in Norway in 2017 as Sila muitalus dálkkádatnuppástusaid. In 2020, Lisa Qiluqqi Koperqualuk translated Sila into Inuktitut under the title ᓯᓚ. ᑲᓛᓪᓖᑦ ᐅᓂᒃᑳᑐᐊᖓ ᓯᓚᕐᔪᐊᒥ ᓯᓚᐅᑉ ᐊᓯᔾᔨᐸᓪᓕᐊᓂᖓᓄᐊᖓᔪᖅ, becoming thus the first literature book translated from an Inuit language to another Inuit language. A translation into French, under the title Sila, un conte groenlandais sur les changements climatiques, has been published in 2020 in the “Jardin de givre” series of the Presses de l’Université du Québec, with an introduction by Daniel Chartier.

Sila made Lana Hansen an internationally acknowledged ambassadress for the issue of climate change: since Sila’s publication, she has been involved in conferences and workshops on a global scale, on behalf of both Greenland and Denmark. Lana Hansen moved to Copenhagen in 2010, then to Berlin (Germany) a few years later where she is currently planning other literary and artistic projects.

Ultimately, Lana Hansen may have inspired her daughter to the defence and promotion of Arctic interests: Niini Malu Hansen is now a graduate student in Greenlandic studies at the University of Copenhagen and a member of JONAA’s (Journal of the North Atlantic and Arctic) editorial board, a news website providing information relative to circumpolar and polar countries.

This biography is based on the available written material during a collective research carried out during 2018-2021. It is possible that mistakes and facts need to be corrected. If you notice an error, or if you wish to correct something in an author's biography, please write to us at imaginairedunord@uqam.ca and we will be happy to do so. This is how we will be able to have more precise presentations, and to better promote Inuit culture.


(c) International Laboratory for Research on Images of the North, Winter and the Arctic, Université du Québec à Montréal, 2018-2021, Daniel Chartier and al.