by Nina York
A flurry of truly meaningful events in Denmark linking it with its former colonies as we approach the centennial of their Transfer to the United States, brings us to realize that friendships can indeed endure despite separation. The publication of impressive books dealing with Danish West Indies history, and even a Danish translation of a contemporary Virgin Island writer Tiphanie Yanique’s award winning book, “Land of Love and Drowning,” are just a beginning. The unveiling in the Danish town of Nakskov of a life-size statue of Victor Cornelins, born in Frederiksted and taken to Denmark over 100 years ago as a young child, where he remained to become a beloved educator and musician, tells another fascinating story.
But perhaps the most impressive recent undertaking is the establishment of a West Indies Cultural Embassy in the Frederiksberg section of Copenhagen which, over the coming months, will be the showplace for numerous events along with ongoing exhibits of photographs and works of art from our islands. Lectures by experts on the island culture and architecture are featured, some also discussing slave ships, banks, and plantations. Drawings of plans for the restoration and repurposing of certain historic official buildings of the In Search of Identity project in Christiansted and Charlotte Amalie are going to be displayed.
Workshops are featured guiding anyone interested in researching online the Royal Archives that now include several million documents relating to our islands. Works by young Virgin Islands artists are to be shown, in addition to exhibits by established names like ElRoy Simmonds, Avelino Samuel and Roy Lawaetz. Genealogy workshops are another popular feature. This “embassy” is open to the general public and is housed in a handsome historic building at the edge of the park surrounding Frederiksberg Castle.
This impressive effort was started by a team headed by Danish architect Ulla Lunn, whose devotion to our islands goes back to early this century and culminates in her current publication of a major book. The other activist is Anne Walbom, under whose leadership the Danish West Indian Society, a friendship organization with strong links to our islands, now can celebrate its 100th birthday in June.
Concurrent with that celebration, the organization is hosting its two-week biennial Danish West Indies Festival for the St. Croix and St. Thomas Friends of Denmark Societies, a tradition of alternating festivities between our islands and Denmark. But a group of 60 of their members will already have visited our islands in connection with the Transfer Day Centennial, where they will be joined by many other groups from Denmark, even the Danish-American Rebild Society that is holding its annual meeting here on St. Croix. We say Velkommen! to all who come in friendship and promise them a memorable visit.
by Nina York