Culture
Art
Village People: Elín Elísabet Finds Fascination In Small-Town Life

Village People: Elín Elísabet Finds Fascination In Small-Town Life

Photos by
Art Bicnick

Published January 12, 2018

In the spring of 2016, illustrator, musician and cartoonist Elín Elísabet headed to the remote eastern fishing village of Borgafjörður Eystri armed with just a few clothes, some sketchbooks, and a portable watercolour set. Elín had spent time there previously working at the local fish processing plant, after a friend vouched for her strongly enough to get a job. She was fascinated by the colourful and close-knit local community, and this time she returned as an artist, to depict the culture, nature and inhabitants of this interesting little place.

“It’s a beautiful, intense and weird little community that I wanted to document,” says Elín. “It ended up turning into a book, although that wasn’t my original plan. I didn’t really have a plan.”

Rural decline

Elín went along to local events such as bingo and meetings of the elderly association. She became interested in the village’s common rural problem of young people leaving for university, or to pursue employment elsewhere, resulting in a shrinking, ageing population in Borgarfjörður Eystri.

“The status of the town in uncertain, like in lots of parts of Iceland,” says Elín. “We don’t know what will become of the town in the future. I wanted to document it as it was at that point. It was a fun project, and the people there enjoyed seeing their town being drawn.”

Into Africa

In 2017, Elín used the resulting book in an application for an artists residency in a small village in Senegal, not really expecting the trip becoming a reality. But sure enough, she soon found herself packing once more to spend November of 2017 in Senegal.

This time, documenting the local community would be a different kind of challenge. “Being a fly on the wall was impossible for me in Senegal,” says Elín. “Every time I went out I’d have a group of fifteen children following me. They were really curious, picking the brushes from my bag and trying to grab my sketchbook to see what I was doing. I loved the interest—but there was no way to sit in a corner and draw what was in front of me.”

How to represent what she saw was also an issue for Elín. “There’s so much out there already about kids running around barefoot in Africa playing with a football made of rags,” she says. “And there’s more to life in Senegal than that. But then, I did see it. It made me examine my role in being there.”

The Senegal Manifesto

The constant attention was fun, but also tiring. Without the internet—or any connection to the outside world—Elín sometimes withdrew into solitude and introspection. She recorded her thoughts in a diary alongside her drawings of day-to-day life in the village.

“Situations and thoughts can be completely specific or personal, and at the same time, universal.”

“I’m usually worried that someone will find and read my diary, so I’m never completely honest,” Elín smiles. “But in Senegal, nobody spoke Icelandic, so I was very honest. I thought about my past relationships, and how I wanted to behave in the future in that regard. There were many places in the diary where I’d say, ‘Next time I will be this way.’ It became a kind of manifesto.”

The resulting exhibition—”The Senegal Manifesto”—mixes Elín’s observational sketches of the village with texts from the internal world of her diary. “The diaries give a window into what I was thinking at the time,” she finishes. “I think it adds another dimension to it. Iceland and Senegal were completely different, but the drawings are still of people making dinner, or hanging out. Situations and thoughts can be completely specific or personal, and at the same time, universal.”

The Senegal Manifesto’ opens at Reykjavík Roasters on Brautarholt on January 13th, and runs for a month. Follow Elín on Facebook and Instagram.


Culture
Art
Húsið: The Art House Of Patreksfjörður

Húsið: The Art House Of Patreksfjörður

by

The harbour area of Westfjords fishing town Patreksfjörður is a small tangle of streets lined with dripping warehouses and industrial

Culture
Art
When Plan-B Turns Out To Be The Better Option: Grassroots Festival Commences

When Plan-B Turns Out To Be The Better Option: Grassroots Festival Commences

by

We‘ve all been there. A failed project. A goal unrealised. We ask ourselves, what went wrong? How can I improve

Culture
Art
‘Earth Homing’ Exhibition Asks: Are Turf Houses Part Of A Sustainable Future?

‘Earth Homing’ Exhibition Asks: Are Turf Houses Part Of A Sustainable Future?

by

At the edge of Reykjavik, something is missing. The drive out to the tip the peninsula on which the city

Culture
Art
Hard Labour: 10 Years After His First Show, Þrándur Is One Of Iceland’s Best-Known Painters

Hard Labour: 10 Years After His First Show, Þrándur Is One Of Iceland’s Best-Known Painters

by

Þrándur Þórarinsson opens the door of his studio and quietly says hello. Dressed in a blue grandad-collar shirt and maroon

Culture
Art
Get On Your Bike: A New Project Scatters Art Around Reykjavík’s Cycling Paths

Get On Your Bike: A New Project Scatters Art Around Reykjavík’s Cycling Paths

by

It would be easy to envision Reykjavik as one of those Nordic capitals where everyone bicycles to work, and occasional

Culture
Art
Disposable Art: The “Saltjökull” Project Wraps Fish ‘n’ Chips In Art Prints

Disposable Art: The “Saltjökull” Project Wraps Fish ‘n’ Chips In Art Prints

by

You may have heard the old aphorism about the news: that one day, it’s on the front page, and the

Show Me More!