Modern Icelandic Whaling and Sweaters

It is hard not think about whaling while being in Iceland. I was doing some research yesterday and discovered that some of the whaling vessels that hunt minke whales stay at port in Hafnarfjordur, a 10 minute walk from where we stayed at our Airbnb. There are two commercial whaling companies here. One company hunts minke whale and one hunts the endangered fin whale. Minke whale is what you can buy in restaurants and in the grocery stores here (no, I will not be partaking) and fin whale is exported and sold to Japanese markets. This past year though there was a temporary, year-long pause on whaling in Iceland, but it is set to begin again in the spring. The pause came because of a lack of demand for the meat. I was surprised to discover that actually very few Icelanders enjoying eating whale meat and the biggest market are the tourists that come here. It is marketed as an exotic delicacy and a “must try” while visiting the country. It is hard to see why the whaling industry continues though when the income generated by whale watching companies is significantly higher than selling theme for meat (and is much more sustainable). While researching I came across this recent documentary called Hard to Port about the current whaling situation in Iceland. It is worth watching if you are interested in this topic.

But how do I process this….

While listening to these documentaries I was thinking about a recent series I made this winter of whales in Christmas sweaters. I was speaking with a gentleman who was looking at them and he said something that stuck with me. By clothing these whales he felt like they were being cared for or nurtured. Forgive me if I am sounding sappy, but I love it when someone makes me a homemade gift like a hat or scarf. These gifts keep me warm on the outside as well as on the inside because I know they take a lot of time and care to make. So I created this small watercolour of a minke whale and a fin whale wearing iconic Icelandic sweaters. I am planning on making two more similar drawings. One for each of the three countries that still continue to practice commercial whaling (Iceland, Norway and Japan).

Whales wearing sweaters… huh… I think might possibly be my most political work yet.

Icelandic Whales in Lopapeysa

The upper whale in this drawing is a minke whale and the lower whales is a fin whale. Fin whales are still considered endangered. They are the second largest animal in existence (only loosing out on the champion title to the blue whale).  This drawing shows the size difference between the two species. 

8.5″ x 11″, ink and watercolour on rag paper 

2 thoughts on “Modern Icelandic Whaling and Sweaters

  1. Hi Natasha: I suspect you are having significant impact from a social action perspective with your innovative visions of these creatures. How are the locals reacting to the ocean-dwelling, sweater-clad residents? What do children think about them?

    • Hello Shirley! Those are good questions. So far I have been mainly working in the studio and no one outside the residency has seen the work. At the end of the month we are having an open house though and I’m looking forward to talking with people. 🙂

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