Once Upon a Paper

Olga Elliot

Internship: Elisabeth Klement
olgaelliot.xyz, olgaelliots@gmail.com

As colonial monuments drown one by one, the little mermaid statue remains in Copenhagen, embodying the national myth of Denmark as a small and innocent kingdom.

Departing from the Danish fairy tale, Once Upon a Paper interrogates colonial storytelling, national symbols and how drawing and typography can become tools of domination. Released in 2021, the 300th ‘anniversary’ of Denmark’s colonisation of Greenland, the publication attests to how today’s political reality is shaped by fictions of the past. Diving into visual archives, the publication uses conversation as a way of untangling dominant narratives and critically reflecting on displays of power, to explore the mermaid’s potential for giving voice to decolonial transformations.

Front cover
Installation view
Ceramic tool



This thesis explores the production, erasure, and retrieval of cultural heritage, in the context of the Danish colonisation of Greenland. Throughout history, mechanisms of worship and negation have been used to marginalise and demonise, and we discover that Christianity played a crucial role in the invasion of Greenland and the subsequent exploitation of the land and its people. I approach the tradition of Inuit storytelling, knowledge-production and spirituality to decenter euro- and anthropocentric perspectives which up until now have functioned to prevent Greenlandic sovereignty and survival. I propose the mermaid as a tool for critically engaging with the dominant narratives and giving voice to decolonial resistance.