Fall break marked the beginning of the Gefion - VIMSIA exchange program. The week was intense and had a great impact for everyone involved. The context and point of the program was historical and cultural explorations and exchange. Each day was designed to explore not only the colonial history in the Danish West Indies, but more importantly and significantly how Danish society is coming to terms with their colonial history and experience. This is part of a broader movement within Danish society to reshape their national mythology to include their role in the transatlantic slave trade and colonial exploitation and extraction in the islands.
We toured museums with exhibits dealing with this past and paid particular attention to how they were presenting the story to the public. We toured the city visiting important landmarks that were built with wealth extracted from the slave trade and colonial exploitation of the islands, learning that history is a story that is told not just through books, but the built world around us.
We visited statues and works of public art recently commissioned and erected that honor important events such as 1848 emancipation or that honor the memory of important figures in the Virgin Islands such as Queen Mary and the four queens of the Fireburn revolt. We visited the Royal Archives to see the importance of preservation of the past through historical documents and the limitations of the perspectives of they offer to historians. Finally, we sat for a screening of the documentary We Carry Within Us, and follow-up discussion with the director about how we restore humanity to the past, about how Danish society is confronting uncomfortable truths of its past so that they can begin to have a more objectively honest view of their past and how individuals and communities can help to heal the living wounds of the past through action and service. The program was phenomenal not only in terms of what the students were exposed to, what they learned, but also in the relationships and friendships formed. There will be more to come next week from the student perspectives, stay tuned.
Eight Danish students and two instructors will be coming in January for their part of this years exchange. We have four families lined up to host students but need an additional 6 families that would be willing to host them for around 4 to 5 days (we are still finalizing their schedule of activities). If anyone is interested or have questions please feel free to contact Mr. Ott for additional information.