|THE FAROE ISLANDS COAT OF ARMS|
Location of Faroe Islands within the continent of Europe
Map of Faroe Islands
Flag Description of Faroe Islands: white with a red cross outlined in blue extending to the edges of the flag; the vertical part of the cross is shifted toward the hoist side in the style of the Dannebrog (Danish flag); referred to as Merkid, meaning "the banner" or "the mark," the flag resembles those of neighboring Iceland and Norway, and uses the same three colors - but in a different sequence; white represents the clear Faroese sky as well as the foam of the waves; red and blue are traditional Faroese colors
Official name Føroyar (Faroese); Færøerne (Danish) (Faroe Islands1)
Political status self-governing overseas administrative division of Denmark with one legislative house (Løgting, or Parliament )
Head of state Danish Monarch
Heads of government High Commissioner (for Denmark): Dan M. Knudsen; Prime Minister (for Faroe Islands): Kaj Leo Johannesen
Capital Tórshavn (Thorshavn)
Official languages Faroese; Danish
Official religion Faroese Lutheran2
Monetary unit Danish krone3 (DKK)
Population (2013 est.) 48,200COLLAPSE
Total area (sq mi) 540
Total area (sq km) 1,399
- Urban: (2011) 41%
- Rural: (2011) 59%
Life expectancy at birth
- Male: (2012) 79.9 years
- Female: (2012) 83.5 years
Literacy: percentage of population age 15 and over literate
- Male: not available
- Female: not available
GNI per capita (U.S.$) (2009) 45,822
1English-language alternative spelling is Faeroe Islands.
2Formally independent of the national Danish Lutheran church from July 2007.
3The local currency, the Faroese króna (plural krónur), is equivalent to the Danish krone. Banknotes used are Faroese or Danish; coins are Danish.
About Faroe Islands
The population of the Faroe Islands is largely descended from Viking settlers who arrived in the 9th century. The islands have been connected politically to Denmark since the 14th century. A high degree of self-government was granted the Faroese in 1948, who have autonomy over most internal affairs while Denmark is responsible for justice, defense, and foreign affairs. The Faroe Islands are not part of the European Union.
Faroe Islands, also spelled Faeroe Islands, Faroese Føroyar, Danish Færøerne, group of islands in the North Atlantic Ocean between Iceland and the Shetland Islands. They form a self-governing overseas administrative division of the kingdom of Denmark. There are 17 inhabited islands and many islets and reefs. The main islands are Streymoy (Streym), Eysturoy (Eystur), Vágar, Suduroy (Sudur), Sandoy (Sand), Bordoy (Bord), and Svínoy (Svín). The capital is Tórshavn (Thorshavn) on Streymoy. Area 540 square miles (1,399 square km). Pop. (2009 est.) 48,900.
Geography of Faroe Islands
Composed of volcanic rocks covered by a thin layer of moraine or peat soil, the islands are high and rugged with perpendicular cliffs—the highest at Mount Slaettara (Slaettaratindur; 2,894 feet [882 metres]) on Eystur Island—and flat summits separated by narrow ravines. The coasts are deeply indented with fjords, and the narrow passages between islands are agitated by strong tidal currents.
The climate is oceanic and mild, with little variation in temperature and frequent fog and rain; annual precipitation totals 60 inches (1,600 mm). The warm North Atlantic Current keeps the harbours free of ice. Natural vegetation is moss, grass, and mountain bog. The islands are naturally treeless because of the cool summers, strong westerly winds, and frequent gales, but some hardy trees have been planted in sheltered plantations. There are no toads, reptiles, or indigenous land mammals; hares, rats, and mice came on ships. Seabirds are numerous and were in earlier times economically important—the puffin as food and the eider for feathers.
Demography of Faroe Islands
The Faroese are of Scandinavian origin; many are descendants of Norwegian Vikings who colonized the islands about 800 ce. About a fourth of the population lives in Tórshavn, the remainder live in small settlements, almost all of which are on the coasts. The official languages are Faroese—most closely related to Icelandic—and Danish. Most islanders are Lutherans belonging to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Denmark. The population tripled between 1801 and 1901 and has more than doubled since then.
Economy of Faroe Islands
Since 1900 the economy of the islands has changed from agricultural (primarily sheep raising) to one based on fishing and related industries, especially the export of frozen and dried cod. Supplements to fishing include fowling and sheep raising—wool is still used in a small, home-based spinning and knitting industry. Little of the land is cultivated; the main crop is grass for sheep. Fuels, basic manufactures, and transport equipment are the major imports. The main harbour is at Tórshavn, and there is an airport on Vágar. There are regular shipping services with Denmark, Iceland, and, in summer, the Shetland Islands. In the middle of the 1990s the islands suffered a severe economic crisis, which generated a substantial emigration to Denmark. After a recovery in 1997–98, many returned.
Government and Society of Faroe Island
The islands are a self-governing region within the Danish state and send two representatives (elected every four years) to the Folketing, the Danish legislature. The Faroe Islands Parliament (Lagting) has 32 elected members, who in turn elect an executive body (Landsstyre) headed by a chairman. Foreign policy, defense, and the monetary and judicial systems are overseen by the Folketing. A commissioner represents Denmark in the islands. Education is based on the Danish system. The islands have good medical services. For a long time a substantial minority has sought full independence from Denmark, and in 1999 the Landsstyre entered negotiations with the Danish government about conditions for full independence. An important point in the talks was the yearly payment of one billion Danish krone from Denmark as half the export earnings.
Arts and Culture of Faroe Islands
Artistic talents of the Faroe Islands
Although the artistic talents of the Faroe Islands have easy access to the rest of world via transport and internet networks, there is still enough delay to let the authentic artistic identity take shape.
For millenia nature and the cultivation of deep rooted tradition has been the teacher and a source of inspiration to artists in the Faroe Islands. Today they master the art of coupling tradition and late modernity in cultural experiments within the fields of music, poetry, painting and design which tey share with and present to the rest of the world.
The steadily growing global cultural influence has, seeminglly revived a new interest in the past of the Faroe Islands. Within music medieval hymns and ballads have for instance been reinterpreted in popular rhythmic music at the end of the 20th century. The metal band "Týr" (a Nordic pre-Christian God) an illustrative case of the cultural blend, got its international breakthrough with an ancient ballad about heoric Viking chiefs dressed in an international musical style.
Strong vocal traditions The vocal traditions have been exceptionally rich and versatile; one reason being that the written Faroese language was not established until 1854, and not accepted in public by the Danish authorities until 1938. All stories, myths, songs and ballads were handed down from one generation to the next orally, and people had to learn by heart to take part in this exchange, which today sums up most of their cultural heritage. Again, remoteness played a decisive part in the development; as there were no musical instruments of significance until the mid 1800s the voice was the only music-making tool available, and as a result singing is deeply anchored in their national identity.
Dance in a chain One of the most unique cultural features is the chain dance, which originally was a mediaeval ring dance. Today, we call it the Faroese chain dance, and rightly so as it has only managed to survive in the Faroe Islands. The rhythm is quite quirky and the ballads about kings and heroes may have several hundred verses. The captain leads the singing and everybody joins in the chorus. The symbolic significance of the chain dance is the full circle of people from all walks of life who hold each others’ hands and meet face-to-face while sharing a moment of true common ground.
Also theatre has enjoyed periods of great importance for the cultural life of the Faroe Islands and has also functioned as a unifying medium and developer of a national horizon.
Music From the Faroes
Deeply rooted in their long tradition of ballads and songs, the people of the Faroes simply cannot stop singing. Vocal traditions have been exceptionally rich and versatile, as there were no musical instruments of significance until the mid 1800s the voice was the only music-making tool available, and as a result, singing is deeply anchored in the Faroese national identity.
Today, however, the voice stands no longer alone, and the instrumental variations and creations have no ending.
BUZZING MUSIC. The Faroe Islands music scene is buzzing and artists and creators across all genres are delivering world class performances and recordings. Teitur and Eivør are undoubtedly among the best known artists internationally. Their respective careers span over more than a decade and both enjoy international acclaim. The metal scene is alive too and the Viking Metal band Týr has a successful career in Europe as the charismatic dark doom metal band Hamferð is knocking on new doors. Two new artists within the alternative music are singer, songwriter, theatre composer and actor Budam and the avant-garde Orka, who have wowed media and audiences across Europe.
MUSIC ALIVE. “The most curious place left on earth” New York Times stated after attending the yearly G! Festival and the Guardian claimed it as "probably the wildest event on the festival calendar" . The live music scene is indeed curious and wild. The thriving live music scene is taking people by surprise, and without a doubt the G! Festival has brought the world's attention to Faroese music. Most festivals take place during the summer time and in August the popular Summerfestival in Klaksvik, Northern islands is hosting thousands of happy festival-goers. Other annual festivals in the Faroe Islands include Fjarðafestivalurin, a Christian music festival and Summartónar, a festival for classical and contemporary music, including Jazz and experimental. The Faroes also host what is probably the smallest Folk music festival in the world – sometimes described as “the hidden festival” as it primarily promoted by word of mouth. The latest festival news is the Winter Jazz Days taking place during the cold dark winter months of January and February. Since 1983 the Nordic House in Torshavn has been an active contributor to the Faroese music scene. Every year this prime venue offers high-quality performances from around the world. On a smaller scale, Tutl, the record company, offers weekly free concerts in their shop in Tórshavn city centre and numerous smaller venues regularly promote live music.
ISLAND JAZZ. Since the foundation of the local Jazz Club in 1975 the Faroe Islands jazz scene has been active. Current artists include Yggdrasil, a cross-national collaboration lead by Kristian Blak, the founder and owner of TUTL, which is the largest record company in the Faroes. Tutl is collectively owned by musicians and composers, who have released their music through the label, and is unique amongst labels as it emphasises total artistic freedom. The Tutl shop in Tórshavn is the only music store in the world that is dedicated to Faroese music. Other jazz artists includeMagnus Johannesen best known for his lyrical playing and melodic perspective. In recent years Magnus has emerged as a composer and orchestrator.
CONTEMPORARY. The Faroe Islands have a rich pool of active contemporary music composers. Sunleif Rasmussen is the most acclaimed internationally. Kristian Blak, Tróndur Bogason, Atli Petersen and Kári Bæk are all among composers with regular commissions from local and international artists. The ensemble Aldubáran is dedicated to perform and promote Faroese music. They have recorded several albums with music by Faroese composers and regularly tour across Europe with Faroese repertoire.
COMPLETE SYMPHONY. Against all odds and with a population of approximately 50.000 the Faroes have managed to put together its very own symphony orchestra. Conductor of the Faroe Islands Symphony Orchestra is mr. Bernharður Wilkinson and the orchestra is made up of a mixture of accomplished students and professional musicians, all of whom are teachers in the Faroese Music School. The orchestra also includes talented amateurs and Faroese people that are pursuing musical educations abroad. The orchestra is further strengthened professional musicians from abroad. The rich singing traditions are manifested in the many choirs on islands. The Torshavn Choir was founded by Ólavur Hátún pioneer and choirmaster. In 2011 the choir celebrated 45 years of existence. The more recent chamber choir Tarira with Sunleif Rasmeussen as choirmaster has firmly established its reputation through many high level international performances. Today the international classical scene is enjoying some of our classical talents in concert halls, opera houses and other prime venues across the world.
Chain dance One of the most unique cultural features is the chain dance, which was originally a mediaeval ring dance. Today, it is known as the Faroese chain dance, and rightly so as it has only managed to survive in the Faroe Islands. The rhythm is quite quirky and the ballads about kings and heroes may have several hundred verses. The captain leads the singing and everybody joins in the chorus. The symbolic significance of the chain dance is the full circle of people from all walks of life who join hands and meet face-to-face on true common ground.
The Faroe Islands are a nation of poets and writers. The love of poetry and story-telling is deeply rooted in Faroese culture.
For centuries Danish was the official language in the Faroe Islands and the Faroese therefore chanted and danced their literature. Secluded in the North Atlantic Ocean they preserved and renewed a common Germanic and Nordic literature from the Middle Ages in heroic dance ballads based upon legendary stories about Charle Magne and Sigurd the Dragon Slayer. Among international scholars these Faroese ballads are recognized as the distinct Faroese contribution to world literature and traits from the ballads are evident in contemporary Faroese literature.
Faroese literature is a literature of contrast between the old and the new, between tradition and innovation. In Faroese poetry of today you will find many different explorative approaches to the traditional material as well as significant influence from contemporary literature of the outside world. Faroese literature is genuine Faroese and at the same time embedded in the literary history of Europe.
The world-famous Faroese writer William Heinesen (1900-1991) sets the tone in the opening of his beautifully orchestrated novel The Lost Musicians (1950): Far out in the radiant ocean glinting like quicksilver there lies a solitary little lead-coloured land. The tiny rocky shore is to the vast ocean just about the same as a grain of sand to the floor of a dance hall. But seen beneath a magnifying glass, this grain is nevertheless a whole world…
William Heinesen made modern Faroese literature known to the outside world. So did his cousin Jørgen-Frantz Jacobsen (1900-1938) with the novel Barbara (1939). Written in Danish, their novels were translated into many languages. During this same period, the first half of the 20th century, a literature written in Faroese developed. In one of the best-loved classics in Faroese literature, The Old Man and his Sons (1940), the author Heðin Brú (1901-1987) eminently depicted the struggle between the old and the new in Faroese society in the middle of the 20th century.
Many years later the author Gunnar Hoydal (b. 1941) in the novel Under Southern Stars (1992) combined the Faroe Islands and the original cultures of South America in a story of cultural discovery. The novel was by the English author Fay Weldon characterized as a major work of literature. In 2005 and 2006 the writer Carl Jóhan Jensen received much critical attention both in and outside the Faroe Islands for his ground-breaking novel Un – Tales of Devilry (2005). In recent years many Faroese poets and writers have been translated and published outside the Faroe Islands, e.g. Jóanes Nielsen, Tóroddur Poulsen, Marjun S. Kjelnæs and Hanus Kamban. Writers of children’s literature have been exceptionally successful, e.g. Bárður Oskarson with his book A Dog, a Cat and a Mouse (2004).
The poets and writers of the Faroe Islands are aware of the deep rooted traditions of Faroese poetry and story-telling and they move confidently into the realms of world literature.
Bergur Djurhuus Hansen
In recent years, several Faroese fashion brands have emerged and have started to make their mark on the international fashion scene. Most of them have one thing in common: knitting.
An ancient Faroese proverb says: “ Ull er Føroya gull”. Translated into English it means: ”Wool is Faroese Gold”. This proverb truly reflects the way of life in the Faroe Islands for centuries. Wool and especially knitted garments such as socks and sweaters were in the old days the main export and for many people it was the only existing currency, as they could trade knitted garments for salt, sugar, coffee and other necessities at the store.
Knitted clothing is therefore an integrated part of Faroese culture and today it plays an essential role in Faroese fashion.
Barbara í Gongini is undoubtedly the best known fashion designer to have come from the Faroe Islands. With a unique conceptual approach Barbara í Gongini creates experimental and extremely edgy clothing, very often in black which has become her trademark colour. Barbara í Gongini uses knitting in her collections, but is not the most essential part of her collections. The label Barbara í Gongini is comprised by two lines: BARBARA Í GONGINI and THE BLACK LINE. THE BLACK LINE is a simplification and more commercial version of the other more experimental line.
The frontrunner in Faroese knitted fashion is undoubtedly the label Guðrun & Guðrun. Guðrun & Guðrun is owned by two Faroese women - Guðrun Ludvig is in charge of all design and Guðrun Rógvadóttir handles the business side. The collaboration between these two women has proven to be very successful, as they have had great success on the international fashion scene for several years now. Their focus lies in using organic materials and a sustainable workforce. Major part of their collections is handmade by Faroese and Jordanian women. Guðrun and Guðrun produce clothing for men, women and children.
Another Faroese knitwear label is STEINUM. STEINUM was created by Faroese knitwear designer Jóhanna av Steinum in 2009. STEINUM exclusively produces knitwear inspired by Faroese knitting and culture. The designs can easily be identified by the characteristic bright colour and bold patterns. The garments are made by women in the Faroe Islands, Denmark and in Western Ukraine.
Soulmade was created in 2004 by Faroese designer Beinta Poulsen. Again, we have a designer who often is inspired by the old Faroese knitting patterns, although Soulmade can also be classed as casual Scandinavian women’s wear.
A lot has happened since the first Faroese painters, not so much longer than a century ago, painted the first landscape paintings, to show the beauty of their country, and demonstrate their love for the homeland. Countless new themes and motives have entered into Faroese art since then, international styles have had their influence, and today an impressive number of artists work with pictorial art, lively debates about art take place in all medias and on every street corner, new galleries and art venues pop up every year, and art plays an important role in everyday life.
Some things are still the same, though, and the landscape is still the dominant motive in Faroese art, just as the interplay between nature and mankind is still the most prevalent theme.
Faroese painters have through generations sought images that can portray the states of mind, the moods and the feelings that nature awakens in them, and they have sought forms in nature that can be used to explore and express their inward struggles. From the depth of the sea to the height of the sky, nature is being artistically investigated in every possible way. With psychological interpretations or ironic comments, poetic expressions or conceptual statements, or simply as an opportunity to carry out formal experiments. Nature is all around.
Faroese art is completely new and the exactly same, and maybe it is just this that makes it so fascinating and so alluring to foreigners. This ability to play both with the traditional and the contemporary, the local and the international, the unique and the general. Because in this constant alternation between originality and renewal and in the constant movement between the vernacular and the global endless nuances, contrasts, tensions and aesthetic possibilities are created, and together they form a rich, wonderful, inspiring pictorial art.
Faroese Film Art
Faroe Islands is a new and upcoming nation of young talented filmmakers, now waiting in the wings. They have talent and exotic nature, remote on the map, but close-knit in travelling.
Katrin Ottarsdóttir, a Faroese filmmaking pioneer of international importance, appeared on a Nordic Film Festival in the new Nordic Huse, presenting Atlantic Rhapsody (FO 1989) for an international audience. This first Faroese feature length film was shot in 16mm and blown up to 35mm for theatrical release. In 52 scenes it is a caleidoscopic look at Tóshavn during a day. Festival is mentioned in Variety and leading filmcritic, Derek Malcolm of the Guardian, gave it a nod towards Woody Allen’s intimate portraits of Manhattan. Atlantic Rhapsody won first prize at the Nordic Filmfestival in Lübeck 1989. Later, Katrin has made a road movie in the Faroe Islands Bye Bye Blue Bird (DK 1999) and a trilogy portraying the Faroese artists Hans Pauli Olsen in Eingin kann gera tað perfekta (FO2008), Tóroddur Poulsen in Ein regla um dagin má vera nokk (FO 2008) and Jóanes Nielsen in Sporini vaksa úr orðum (FO 2009). Latest production from Katrin is filming her daugter, Hildigunn Eyðfinnsdóttir, in five thrilling bw shorts in a five room apartment, called Lejlighedsminder (DK 2012).
Today young talents like Sakaris Stórá, Passasjeren (NO 2009), Anton Petersen Skýming (FO 2012) and Heiðrik á Heygum Sigarett (FO 2010) have taken the still virginal soil of Faroese film. They have all been presented at the Nordic Filmfestival in Lübeck 2011, same year as Sakaris won first prize as best young talent in Reykjavik International Film Festival. Now in production is his Summarnátt and Anton’s Drongurin og eggið.
Under the name Magma, Marianna Mørkøre and Rannvá Káradóttir, have made surrealistic short dance projects in bw, finding the way to international festivals and fashion shows. Lately Heiðrik á Heygum has also had sucess with the rock video format in Orka: Alda reyð (FO 2011).
Creative workshops Since 2009 Klippfisk has been a workshop and hang out for young Faroese film talents. The workshop is financed by Tórshavn municipality. In 2012 the Nordic House announced the first Faroese film fund offering 200.000 DKK for Faroese productions and the first Faroese film prize, Geytin, and the Áskoðaravirðislønin, was presented to Sakaris Stórá at an annual short film show in the Nordic house on December 11th.
First filmings on home turf were made at a royal visit in 1907, and three years later the first Faroese movie theatre opened. Since then the Faroe Islands have been used as backdrop in foreign productions, starting with Sten Nordenskiöld’s silent semidocumentary Farornas Ö, shot on the birdcliffs of Skúgvoy in 1929 and premiered in Stockholm the following year. Other foreign features, using the vertical cliffs and violent currents of Faroe as platform, are German DEFA-production Schatten über den Inseln (DDR 1952), Selkvinnen (NO 1953), Tro, håb og trolddom (DK 1960), Barbara - wild wie das Meer (BRD 1961), Barbara (DK 1997), Dansinn (IS 1998) and Buzz Aldrin, hvor ble det av deg i alt mylderet? (NO 2011)
Already in the inter-war period Leo Hansen filmed and researched here, mostly for commercial purposes. In 1949 Jørgen Roos portrayed a local farmer, in 1965 Knud Leif Thomsen found Stefan Danielsen a thrilling theme in Nólsoy, while Ulla Boje Rasmussen created magnificent portraits in Gásadalur (1990) and Mykines (1992). Later she documented the political negotiations between Faroe Islands and Denmark in Færøerne.dk (DK 2003).
Teamed up with local writers Jack Kampmann and William Heinesen, documentarist Jørgen Roos made Færøerne - Føroyar (DK 1961) honoured with Evreux gold. In 1970’s similar collaborations were made with local writers, such as Gunnar Hoydal and Steinbjørn B. Jacobsen, and two decades later with local producers, such as Per Zachariassen, always for Danish television.
With a brilliant eye for detail Jákup Andreas Arge filmed striking elements of cultural history when farmers were harvesting the corn fields of Húsavík in the sixties. Furthermore he delivered material for documentaries in Danish television, describing everyday life in late 1960’s. In the early seventies production company Tór Film made ambitious productions on cultural life and even portraits on famous writers William Heinesen, Christian Matras and Heðin Brú, in durable documentary Tríggir varðar (FO 1977). In mid seventies Spanish resident Miguel Hidalgo made three amateur filmings of tales like Rannvá (FO 1974), Páll Fangi (FO 1975) and Heystblómur (FO 1977).
Faroese televison, Sjónvarp Føroya has hitherto had two fictional productions: Eir í Ólavstovu’s Alfred (FO 1986) and Øssur Winthereig’s Stjórin er á floti (FO 1987).
Collaborations with local writer William Heinesen tried a new expression in the 1980’s, when adventorus Henning Carlsen searched for grants to film Don Juan fra Tranhuset, but without success.
Teitur Árnason predicted a new cull of Faroese filmmakers with his poetic Burturhugur (FO 2002) documenting daily life in remote village of Hattarvík, Fugloy.
The works of Holberg and other playwrights have been performed on the Faroe Islands for more than 200 years and there is great breadth in modern Faroese theatre. Since the 1960s everything from Beckett, Shakespeare, Chekov and Strindberg to modern Faroese drama has been performed on the islands. There have also been a number of ambitious adaptations of the novels of the Faroese William Heinesen in impressive productions at the Nordic House in Tórshavn, directed by the grand old man of Faroese theatre, Eyðun Johannesen.
As William Heinesen once commented so humorously, the Faroes are also a paradise for amateur dramatics. The best of the amateur companies have performed at great number of good plays, including works by Dario Fo.
Theatre as an element of national identity The nationalist and romantic movements at the end of the 19th century led to a wish to retain and develop Faroese as the mother tongue of the islands. This was a period of national revival, encouraged by the dawning of industrialisation - a counter reaction against increasing influence from outside the islands. In 1889 Rasmus Effersøe wrote the first Faroese play. Theatre has enjoyed periods of great importance for the cultural life of the Faroe Islands, and has also functioned as a unifying medium and developer of a national horizon.
The old theatre in Tórshavn called Sjónleikarhúsið has been a central institution in the theatrical history of the Faroes. The Faroese poet Hans Andrias Djurhuus and William Heinesen were both associated with it and Kristin í Geil, one of the first left-wing intellectual writers on the Faroe Islands, wrote a number of plays to be performed there. However, a great deal has happened since those days.
The National Theatre Theatre as an amateur activity was first recorded in the Faroe Islands in the 1780s. In that period Faroese University students, visiting home during their summer break from their studies in Copenhagen, performed comedies by Danish writer Holberg, and according to Svabo, knowledgeable people among the audience had deemed the performances to be “fully on the level one would expect on stages abroad”. During the 1800s there seems to have been regular theatre activity in the capital Tórshavn. Plays were mainly performed by the Danish upper class in the Islands and the repertoire was mainly Danish plays that were performed in Danish.
From 1888 and onwards a national movement took its roots among the Faroe Islanders, and plays were being written and performed in Faroese. Among the early playwrights were Rasmus Effersøe, Símun av Skarði and Hans Andrias Djurhuus. During the period 1888-1940 the repertoire was mainly of a romantic and light nature. During this period theatre was widely performed all over the islands as a part of the activities of a national youth movement that sought to promote Faroese culture and the Faroese language.
After World War II a more serious and modern approach to theatre as an art form emerged in the Faroe Islands. Especially at Havnar Sjónleikarfelag, The Theatre Society of Tórshavn, which was and still is an amateur company. The repertoire became more modern and challenging and the company began to work with professional theatre practitioners from abroad as directors. In the late 50s the first Faroese trained as a professional actor and director in Denmark. His name was Eyðun Johannesen and he was to become a catalyst for development of the Faroese theatre.
Although Faroese theatre continued to be solely an amateur activity all through the 1960s and most of the 1970s, Eyðun Johannesen did a systematic work in training the actors of Havnar Sjónleikarfelag in basic acting and performance skills, that enabled the company to perform most of the modern repertoire of the period and to inspire Faroese writers to write for the stage as well.
In 1977 Eyðun Johannesen took it a step further and founded the first professional theatre ensemble of the Faroe Islands, which was called Gríma. Although Eyðun Johannesen left the Faroe Islands to pursue a career as a theatre director in Denmark, and although the public grants to Gríma were severely cut during the period 1979-1989, the group survived and struggled on as the only professional ensemble of the Islands, until the National Theatre of The Faroe Islands, Tjóðpallur Føroya, took over that role in 2005.
Gríma played a very diverse repertoire ranging from modern stage dramas to experimental performances inspired by the theatre of Jersy Grotowski’s “poor theatre” and Eugenio Barba’s Odin Theatre. The main line in the repertoire, however, was modern drama.
In 2004 the Faroese Parliament passed a law to found the National Theatre of The Faroe Islands.Today the artistic director of the theatre is its only full time employee while actors, directors and designers and other artists and technicians are hired from project to project.
The National Theatre fully lives up to its obligations to perform Faroese drama and the best of modern and classic drama from abroad. It stages an average of 4 productions a year, and has managed to stage new Faroese plays on a regular basis. It has also so far produced an original Faroese opera and two musical plays for children, one of which was an original Faroese work.
During the 80s, 90s and 00s a number of young Faroese have taken professional training abroad in the field of theatre and at the present several more are training to qualify as professional actors, directors and set designers. Thus there is an artistic basis to expand the activity of the professional theatre in the Faroe Islands, if increased funding could be provided. Otherwise most of this young Faroese mass of talent will make their careers outside the Faroe Islands. In the last 10 years, thanks to a determined effort from first Gríma and then the National Theatre, the production of new Faroese plays has steadily increased. But to keep it up takes an effort to constantly encourage Faroese writers to write for the stage.
Apart from the funding of the National Theatre the Faroese government also provides the financial resources every year to a limited number of free professional theatre groups to stage their own productions. This has inspired many young theatre professional to come up with outstanding productions. Especially the group Tvazz has excelled with some excellent and in the context of Faroese theatre very original and refreshing productions of modern European dramatists .
The Faroese Language
The language of the Faroe Islands is Faroese. As a world language only spoken by approximately 75,000 - 80,000 people, it is estimated that some 25,000 people in Denmark and 5,000 in Iceland speak the Faroese language.
Faroese is a Nordic language, which derives from the language of the Norsemen who settled the islands some 1200 years ago. The written Faroese language was not established until 1854, and not accepted in public by the Danish authorities until 1938. The first Faroese novel was Bábelstornið (The Tower of Babel) by Rasmus Rasmussen. It was published in 1909 under the pseudonym Regin í Líð.
The Faroese language is considered one of the most important aspects of Faroese cultural identity and Faroe Islanders are conscious of the need to preserve the Faroese language by keeping it resilient in the face of global influences – research and development of the Faroese language is a high political priority of the Faroese government. In 2010 the government decided to give a Language Cultivation Award to Jóan Hendrik Winther Poulsen for his efforts to cultivate and develop the Faroese language. This award has since then become an annual event.
Unique Faroese Ways of Living
For hundreds of years, Faroe Islanders have taken part in physically demanding activities such as walking in the mountains and rowing open boats. Fishing was originally a means of survival, and the traditional Faroese chain dance also served a variety of purposes. In addition to being a joyful physical activity that helped people keep warm and happy during the cold, dark winters, the dance also provided people with an opportunity to come together and tell stories of the past and present through the singing of the old ballads 'kvæðir'.
To this day, the Faroese population takes pride and enjoyment in these activities, which are still widely practised, albeit sometimes with a modern twist.
The Knitting Club
Knitting seems to be all the rage in the Faroe Islands. It has always been more popular than elsewhere, undoubtedly because of the strong tradition linked to it. Women are knitting everywhere. At home, in the workplace, on the bus. Even young girls, the busy business woman in stilettos. A very common sight in the schools around the country is girls knitting while attending lectures or during their lunch breaks and free periods. This trend really shows that the tradition of knitting is still very much alive. But women knit for different reasons. Some find it relaxing and therapeutic as the rhythm and the gentle clicking sound seems soothing and curative and others knit for more practical and perhaps political as they want to shed light on give recognition to the importance of women's traditional work. The majority knits simply because they love it.
Architecture is closely linked to identity, to the history, the livelihood, the culture and the ambition of individuals and of the nation as a whole. This is true in the Faroe Islands as in all other places, where humans have settled, built and shaped man made environments to live and work in.
Faroese architecture is a special Nordic mix of traditions and inspirations from Norwegian and Danish architecture, formed in this special Faroese context of a demanding natural environment, a profound sense of community balanced with a strong and colourful individualism.
Tradition and innovative modernity – the Nordic House Traditionally building materials were what could be found in the surrounding natural environment – stone, turf and wood. As the Faroes have no forests, wood came from the sea, washed ashore from faraway lands. We still see these elements in modern Faroese architecture, where a lot of modern buildings have the characteristic Faroese grass-covered roofs. The Nordic House in Tórshavn, designed by the Norwegian architect Ola Steen, is an eminent example of a very modern design combined with traditional features.
Preserved environments – village at Koltur and T.F. Thomsen’s buildings in Tvøroyri Medieval Faroese houses were farmhouses, very similar to those found in Norway of the same period. No wonder, since the population originated from settlers coming from the Western parts of Norway. On the small island of Koltur a restored medieval farm village serves as an important national heritage site for the Faroes.
Farmhouses were clustered closely together in small villages scattered around the islands. The villages are still there, although some of them have grown into towns, with the emergence of the commercial fishing industry from the late 19th century onwards. The well preserved T.F. Thomsen’s trade buildings in Tvøroyri is an excellent example of this dynamic era.
Modern urbanisation, first and foremost exemplified with the growth of the capital city, Tórshavn, has further been fuelled by the Faroese nation building process and the development of a modern Scandinavian style welfare society. New and larger buildings were needed for public institutions, government, schools, hospitals etc., as well as for commercial purposes – shops, industrial buildings and so on.
Tinganes The listed old town of Tórshavn, Tinganes, with its 200-400 years old wooden houses was originally housing the Royal Trade Monopoly, but has in recent times been transformed into the Faroese Government’s central administration. The houses here are very well preserved and form a fascinating old wooden house environment of unique beauty.
Ambitious college complex The Faroese government plans to build a hyper-modern college for 1,500 students on a hillside in the outskirts of Tórshavn shows real ambition. The 70 million Euro college complex has an innovative design by the famous Danish architect firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), and will be finished by 2016. Read more
Community meets individualism – randarhús The Faroese are deeply rooted in community and tradition. At the same time they are an innovative and highly individualistic people. A typical characteristic of Faroese villages and towns is the high degree of variation in colour – everybody paints their own house in their colour of choice, which must, of course, be different from their neighbour’s. This tendency is very well illustrated in the intriguingly imaginative housing development at the Northern outskirts of Tórshavn, designed by the Faroese architect Gunnar Hoydal. Here we find the snakelike terrace houses, called randarhús (border houses), as they mark the outer borders of the city, much like the walls of medieval cities. Though they are attached to each other in a row, these terrace houses all have their own individualistic shape and colour.
History of Faroe Islands
The name first appeared as Faereyiar (c. 1225), meaning “Sheep Islands,” which presumably led to the national symbol, a ram. First settled by Irish monks (c. 700), the islands were colonized by the Vikings (c. 800) and were Christianized by the king of Norway (c. 1000). The remains of a Gothic cathedral, begun in the 13th century but never completed, are at Kirkjubøur (Kirkebø). The Faroes became a Norwegian province in 1035 and passed to Denmark with the rest of Norway in 1380. Separated from Norway administratively in 1709, they were attached to the diocese of Zealand and became a Danish royal trade monopoly, which inhibited economic development.
Early Faroese oral literature became the basis for modern nationalism in the 19th century and led to the creation of a written Faroese language by the folklorist Venceslaus Ulricus Hammershaimb. Nationalist agitation hastened the restoration of the old Faroese Lagting (a combined jury and parliament) in 1852 and the end of the trade monopoly in 1856. A Home Rule Party was formed in 1906. During World War II Great Britain controlled the Faroes while the Germans occupied Denmark, a situation that strengthened demands for home rule. After the Lagting elections of 1946 reversed the majority vote for independence in an earlier plebiscite, negotiations began again in Copenhagen. In 1948 the islands were granted self-government under the authority of Denmark, with their own flag and unit of currency (the krona); Faroese was given equal status with Danish. The University of the Faroe Islands in Tórshavn was founded in 1965.
Poor fiscal discipline in the 1980s, coupled with the collapse of the Faroese fishing industry because of overfishing, resulted in an economic crash in the early 1990s that required Danish intervention. The islands rebounded, though, to face the 21st century with renewed vigour, buoyed by the economic promise of offshore oil drilling and a growing independence movement.
Religion of Faroe Islands
The majority of the Faroese population, approximately 85 percent, belongs to the Faroese Evangelical Lutheran Church. The Faroe Islands is a diocese divided into 14 parishes with a total of 62 churches and 9 houses of prayer. There is a bishop, a dean and 21 ministers.
There are some organisations and associations attached to the Faroese Evangelical Lutheran Church, among them KFUK and KFUM, which correspond to YWCA and YMCA, Inner Mission and Evangelical Mission.
There are several other religious communities in the Faroes, the largest of which is the Plymouth Brethren. About 13 percent of the total population belong to this community. Other religious communities are the Catholic Church, the Salvation Army, the Pentecostal Movement, Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah Witnesses, the Philadelphia congregation (a branch of the Pentecostal Movement) and the Bahá’í Faith.
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Other sources of information will be mentioned as they are posted.