The wandering drum dancer/Tivasartoq unissanani

by Inga Hansen Length: 30:00 Original language: Greenlandic Consultance: Sabine Hviid This piece was produced as part of the radiofeature/documentary project RANA. RANA is funded through EU´s Lifelong learning program. More information about the RANA project can be found on

Ego sings an old drum song Inga: I met Ego for the first time when I was 12 years old. I was on summer vacation, and staying at the Greenlander house. Ego worked there, and we called him Keyi since he was responsible for all the keys in the house and he called keys Keyi. We thought it was funny and he smiled at us a lot, which is how I remember him. Ego finishes singing, laughs, sound of traffic. Inga: I met Ego again, 30 years later on the bus here in Nuuk. He was on his way to Nuussuaq where I was coming back from work. I have heard that he is homeless, but he seemed happy. He still smiles as he did 30 years ago. Ego sings and plays the drum dance Inga: Ego is famous for his Greenlandic drum songs, and he is one of the best in Greenland. I have heard that he has travelled the world, and it is his drum dance that he performs. Even in Japan he has stayed at one of the finest hotels, but upon his return to Nuuk he once again has to knock on the door of one of his friends to ask to stay the night. Ego finishes by bellowing a song that fades into street noise. Inga: It’s windy, are you cold? Ego: Yes, I am a little cold. The air is moist and the clothes I am wearing are not especially warm, so yes, I am pretty cold! . Sound of steps Inga: Ego, you have slept in the entranceway while there was snow, and a snow storm – how was that?

Ego: It was tough, but of course it is better than being completely without a roof over my head. However, right in the middle of my deepest sleep; and of course because I was sleeping I didn’t hear anyone approaching; I was awoken by someone kicking me in the side. I saw a man, and he began to tell me that, “I must be mad” because one isn’t allowed to sleep here, and since I couldn’t sleep in the entranceway I would have to go outside again. Obviously if I had had a place to go I wouldn’t be sleeping there! Entranceways are the sort of place that smell and it is a hard surface to lie on. They walk out onto the street. Inga: I thought about Ego for several days after meeting him. Since I had gotten his cell phone number, I called him up to hear if he wanted to take part in my first radio montage, and he said he would. He explained that he usually stands outside Brugsen in Nuuk and that I could find him there… Inga: Halloo hello (testing microphone) Ego it’s almost 18:00 and it’s almost dinnertime, how are you feeling…are you hungry? Ego: Yes, I am hungry and at this time of day I envy those that have a home – maybe they make what they fancy as they please, which is something I cant do since I haven’t a home...but of course – we get open faced sandwiches at the refuge...but a person needs a hot meal once a day. Inga: He had a home when he worked for Tele Greenland but when he retired he was forced to move out. That is how he became a homeless in Nuuk. Since Ego has no fixed address, his performances have ground to a halt....Organizers that want to invite him to perform drum dances aren’t able to find him. Drumming on pot lids Ego: I am a kid – I am Ego and am 5 years old. It was then that I held a drum in my hand for the first time and right now I am hearing that beautiful, memorable drumming sound…drumming sound…over there is my mother among the old folks, and she is watching me, but I cant figure out if she likes me or not…and when I played a little with my drum my mother told me not to overdo (the drumming) as it could lead to something terrible. But the gifts that our lord has bestowed upon us cannot be destroyed by a drum. Inga: Ego is born and raised in East Greenland. He grew up in a hunter community. He now lives in West Greenland, in Nuuk where there are great big high rises, cars, hotels, restaurants and super markets. When he plays the drum dance he uses the old east Greenlandic form of drumming. He seems to struggle adjusting to the modern way of life in Greenland. Despite this, he has a mobile phone which is ultra modern. This is largely because he uses the phone to call his friends when he needs to visit then and rest a little. He called one day to explain about his problems with the local authorities.

Ego: Hello...hello Marianne its dad...hi how are you...(cough). I am wandering around town at night I would also like to sleep…yes but I cant keep on like this, I am worn out…Yes can you support me, maybe I can get a flat that way. I have been looking for a flat since 1984 but I cant find anything…maybe I will travel to East Greenland instead…then after I arrive – I will call you again…you can try your best…that’s good…yes but how are the grandkids…that’s nice…and how about that mother…how? Yeah she is great also…maybe if I can afford it I will come visit you…ok send my regards to the kids and mother and everyone else that I know… hear from you soon…ok bye. Inga: You have been very frustrated that he moved back to Greenland? Marianne (Ego’s daughter): I was frustrated that he left just as I was 18-19 years old and was going through a rough patch. I couldn’t figure out if I was a Greenlander or a Dane or if I was a Greenlander…I certainly looked like one…but then why didn’t I know the language? I had a feeling that he had just left me…and why had he done that? I never found out what happened…and during those 17 years, that disappeared into the blue, while he was living in Greenland I have barely had any contact with him…those years are missing in my life! Faint drumming Ego: I met my daughter’s mother for the first time in East Greenland, when I was 24 years old... Inga: Is she Danish? Ego: Yes...During the three years that she lived in East Greenland we fell in love and she was my boss. We had a tendency to be attracted to each other. When she needed help- I helped her and we took sled trips together when we were inland – like all other your people we became aroused and fooled about together. Then one day in the fall she told she thought she was pregnant. At that moment I felt like someone pushed me over a mountains edge! A recording of Ego playing and singing when he was younger. Marianne: I was proud to have a father who was a master of the drum dance, it’s a little hard to describe because when one thinks back it was just a part of him…but it was the part that I looked up and was fascinated by. Inga: Lately he hasn’t had a roof over his head – how was that? Marianne: It was very frustrating. He called down and said that he unfortunately didn’t have a place to stay but obviously hoped that he could find a flat soon so we could come visit him and…but as time went by I could sense him growing ever more frustrated. A 67 year old who in many ways has lived a hard life and had to sleep in stairwells and with friends and acquaintances in Nuuk…I was frustrated but I had a hard time seeing what I could do to help him.

Inga: Because of the large migration to Nuuk there is a huge lack of homes. People who apply for housing through INI A/S – wait for up to 20 years. Ego: Yesterday I was asked to meet up at the municipality…so I went there yesterday…no today ahh…No I went there for the first time yesterday and one of the employees showed me a VEEERY long letter and said “congratulations Ego you are getting a new home – admittedly its without a bedroom but I am sure that suits you fine” So this morning at 10 am, I was asked to return to the municipality. Then the man that usually helps me with social issues asked me to wait. As soon as he walked in he said “Ego I am sorry” – why I ask him: “that flat you saw the other day has been given to someone else”. At this point I was broken… (sniffle) and I got tears in my eyes…whereas I was so happy yesterday. Of course, I then said DAMN! It’s just too bad that after all these years of waiting for a flat I finally get one – then it is given to someone else. Inga: I approached Nuuk’s municipality on behalf of Ego to find out what happened, explaining that I wanted to do a piece for the evening news. Ego was a 67 years old homeless person! And go figure, after ten minutes they called back and explained that Ego had in fact been given the flat. Finally Ego had a place to live. Ego: (cell phone call to a friend) Hey, its me – yeah, I have just received some good news...that flat on Kongevejen, that they were going to give me is mine. They called from social services while I was talking to the lady from the evening news…Inga Hansen – they called on her cell “ Ego you no longer have to be concerned – we will do all that we can to make sure you get that flat”! Key sound Inga: Ego, where will you be living? Ego: Over there, in the red house with the blue entrance. Yesterday when I went to see it I couldn’t find it…I mean it’s the first time in my life that I have had a place that is ENTIRELY my own…so it’s pretty strange. When I arrived the landlord gave me keys…and while smiling at me, he said, “You should open the door yourself so you can truly feel that you now have a place to live in”. Door opens Ego: Kongevejen 11 – entrance E as in Ego...number 8 Inga: Ego is very happy with his flat. When he was given it he was given three sets of keys. He gave me one of them. In case he lost his own, then he could always come get them off me. But he only managed to live on the flat for three days. Then he was admitted to Dronning Ingrids Hospital where he was diagnosed with cancer that had spread to the liver. I visit Ego at the hospital. Choir sings for Ego

Inga: Ego, happy New Year… Ego: Thank you...up there is my new little flat that I want to live in for the rest of my life...but now I don’t know how. Inga: Ego’s daughter arrived to say a final farewell. When she entered his room – Ego became very tense and said that he suddenly couldn’t speak Danish, and asked me to translate…the first thing he said was: “I am very happy”…They spoke together and at this point I decided to turn of the tape recorder. Sound of a tape recorder being turned off. Marianne: For the first few seconds we just look at each other and I can clearly see that he recognizes me, and I can see his smile and we say hello to each other. I think I also introduce his grandchild Christian who he hasn’t seem in 17 years…the last time he saw him he was turning two…he came for his 2 year birthday…He told us how beautiful it was in Nuuk during the summer and that he wanted to show us at some point. He hoped that he would get better so he could show us Nuuk, and that we would go fishing and sail up the Godthåbsfjorden. Umm … and he keeps looking at me, smiles and says: “You look just like yourself”. For me personally it was all about enjoying the moment, and being with my father again…that was very important to me. He was also very concerned about his drum and kamiks - that I should look after these. I said that we would figure something out – I will hold them for you…but I actually think it was because he wanted to make sure I would get them - because they meant something to him - and for that I am very appreciative. A recording of Ego playing and singing when he was younger. Radio News: The drum dancer Ego Sikivat died yesterday afternoon, aged 67 at Dronnings Ingrids Hospital in Nuuk. Ego Sikivat was originally of the Kuumiuts of East Greenland and was from a young age taught the art of singing drum songs. In 1976 he became widely recognized in Greenland and Denmark when he featured on the rock group Sume’s third LP. Since then he performed on numerous occasions with his humour ridden versions of old East Greenlandic drum songs. He performed for the royals and travelled around the world with his art. With the death of Ego Sikivats Greenland has lost one of its most prominent intermediaries of the traditional drum dance. Hear him here live, recorded at the ICC general assembly in 1983 in Eqaluit. Ego plays drums as a youngster, which merges into him playing as an older man and the wind blowing. Inga: Ego Sikivat – Keyi one of Greenland’s most famous drum dancers… In my mind I see him wandering around the streets of Nuuk, be there frost, snow or worse. Ego you are a nomad who has so much to tell, and thank you for allowing me to follow you - your heart and your drum will always beat. These drum sounds that you had carried on in respect to your ancestors. Thank you Keyi, and may you rest in peace. Ego singing. Wind.

The End.

©2009 RANA/Inga Hansen

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