‘The Greenlandic flag, Erfalasorput, may be plagiarized.”
These were the headlines in Greenlandic and Danish newspapers at the beginning of October.
In fact, the flag, designed by former home rule member Thue Christiansen, reminds many of a pennon that belongs to the rowing club of the Hjortshøj-Egå Idrætsforenings, HEI, a sports association that operates in a small town close to Århus, Denmark’s second largest city.
It was an art researcher in Greenland who raised the issue earlier this month.
“What surprise! The Greenlandic flag (is) the logo for HEI rowing sport … founded on November 5, 1969,” said art researcher Sven-Erik Hendriksen in an open letter to home rule member Doris Jacobsen, who is responsible for culture, education, research and church.
“There can be no doubt that Thue Christensen has visited the Greenlandic house in Århus to sell his artwork.
He has seen the pennon and, when the competition for the flag was started, he copied the pennon and changed the form to a square instead of a triangle, but the design is the same,” wrote Hendriksen.
The letter was published in local newspaper Grønlandsposten, The Greenland Post, earlier this month.
Erfalasorput is red and white, with a split circle in the centre, commonly known to symbolize a sun that is about to rise over the ice.
Meanwhile, the sport’s association’s flag is the same, except that it’s a triangular pennon, not a square flag.
Erfalasorput, which means “our flag,” was selected after an open competition. It was first used publicly on June 21, 1985, on Greenland’s national day.
In the Greenlandic newspaper, Sermitsiaq, Christiansen is quoted explaining the symbols and colour in the flag: The white means the inland ice; while Greenland’s uncountable fjords are symbolized by the red circle. The red symbolizes the ocean, while the white means the icebergs and ocean ice. The red and white circle also means the sunset and sunrise, and the light and warmth of the midsummer.
The red and white colours are also the same as in the Danish flag, Dannebrog, and hence, underline the close ties Greenland has with Denmark.
“It is shameful and totally unheard of, that a national flag is plagiarized. It should be something special, national and beautiful that all can be proud of,” writes Svend-Erik Hendriksen in his letter.
“I have personally lost all respect for the Greenlandic flag, which I actually think is very beautiful. Thue Christiansen makes me feel nauseous.”
But the sport association’s members behaved like the true sportsmen they are — both now and in the past.
A spokesperson for the rowing club stepped forward and said it too late to speak of plagiarism, even though the two flags are undeniably alike.
And half an hour after the Dansk Forening for Rosport, Danish Association of Rowers, was informed of the open letter, the association received an e-mail from a member with a great memory.
The whole discussion of the flag has occurred before — back in 1985.
The association’s chief secretary went to the archives and found the associations’ newsletter, Roning nr. 2, 1985. On page nine, it said that Greenland had, in fact, applied for and been given leave to share the flag’s theme with the small rowing club.
“To forego any kind of misunderstanding, the rowing club’s board of directors has sent an example of the pennon along with a letter to home rule leader Jonathan Motzfeldt.
“In the letter, the rowing club’s president, Anni Kaalby, says, ‘We do not claim ownership of the flag,’” says the 1985 article.
According to Danish news agency, Ritzau, the Greenland home rule knew well of the sports association’s flag in 1985, but didn’t suspect plagiarism.
Ritzau also quoted Lis Nielsen, now-secretary of the Danish Association of Rowing, saying that at the time, there was a lengthy discussion on the issue, which stands out clearly in her mind.
“I don’t think the Greenlandic flag is plagiarized — it’s just a coincidence. But it can, of course, be that the artist saw it at some point in Århus,” said Nielsen.