The forgotten Giants

Have you ever been on a sculpture
treasure hunt in nature? I hadn’t, and I would never have guess that I, a
well-travelled photographer, would end up feeling like a tourist in my own country.
One August morning, just before the summer holiday ended, I went out
discovering the suburbs of Copenhagen with a friend, chasing wooden, upcycled sculptures
that resembled nature’s forgotten giants.  

Less than thirty minutes
away from the city centre of Copenhagen in Denmark, you can discover a
completely different part of Copenhagen, something you won’t find in your
average ten things to do in Copenhagen
article. With our bags packed with food, water and a notebook, we met up at 10am
at Høje Taastrup train station, and started walking towards the first destination
on our treasure map - the sculpture Friendly
Teddy
.

The different sculptures
were marked out on google maps, and logistically weren’t hard to find. But they
took us places we would never have imagined. By a small swamp, surrounded by
trees, a giant, beautiful statue was sitting, welcoming everyone who stumbled
upon it, with his long, reaching arm. Despite being made entirely out of wood
and nails, his face was filled with charisma. After walking around the
sculpture, admiring the craftsmanship, we sat by the swamp talking, and shortly
after, a small group of locals and tourists came by. They were also hunting the
sculptures of the giants, and before we knew it, we had been standing, talking
for a little over half an hour with them.

We continued our journey,
crossing highways, IKEA stores and big shopping centres, before immersing our
self in nature areas once again, following a creek all the way to the next
giant sculpture. On our walk through the suburbs, we met goats, sheep, various
bird species and highland cows. We ate blackberries off the bushes and enjoyed
our lunch on the top of a hill, sitting on one of the giants – Thomas on the mountain, looking over the
suburban nature. Every local we passed on our way, stopped to talk with us, to
hear what we were doing, walking around with our big backpacks. We quickly
started talking to them about the sculptures. Like a monument, they all felt
proud of the project, and eager to talk more about how it had influenced the
surrounding area and how they now met more people and tourists who were walking
around their neighbourhood, because they were searching for the sculptures.

It felt as though I was
far out in the countryside, not thirty minutes from the city centre. The
sculptures took us all over the suburbs, and after walking over 30 kilometres,
seeing four out of the six sculptures, we hitchhiked and got a lift by a man in
a veteran military car. We ended up camping out in the wild grasslands for the
night, and reached a place to set up the tent just before dusk, still only
thirty minutes from the capital centre. Here we enjoyed the sunset, cooked
dinner and made a small bonfire, while reflecting upon our incredible adventure
in the “backyard” of Copenhagen.

The artist behind this
incredible initiative is Thomas Dambo - a Danish installation- and sculpture
artists, who uses recycled materials to create his art pieces and projects. He
realised how much useful wood was thrown away, and started his career with the
project Happy City Birds, after his
grandma had pointed out that not everybody would acknowledge the value of
graffiti, but everyone could acknowledge the value of a bird house. He has now
made sculptures out of upcycled materials all over the world and continues to
do so. He was asked by the nature foundation of Vestegnen to contribute with
his sculpture to bring people out in the nature areas of the Copenhagen
suburbs, also to change its mistaken reputation as a ghetto area. In this waty,
Thomas agreed to help and the project was established.

Art sculptures has the
power to bring people places they normally wouldn’t have gone. Placing them in
nature, is a great way to bring people out and away from their regular route.
People have a tendency to walk the same path to a place every single time, but
here was an opportunity to bring people out to those places that they normally
wouldn’t go. Thomas Dambo created a treasure map, locating the sculptures, not
only to engage children, but to make people more interested in the project. In
this way, it wasn’t only the giants that would end up being discovered, but
also the surrounding nature.

The sculptures take people
places that they normally wouldn’t ever go. It took me places I wouldn’t ever
have visited. The combination of art, storytelling, beautiful craftsmanship and
social engagement is the result of a unique way of visiting the suburbs of
Copenhagen and a different way of experiencing the country. The sculptures can
be reached either by walking like I did with my friend, or by biking. With more
than 50% of the Danish population using the bike, as their preferred form of
transportation, I recommend increasing the authenticity of the experience, by renting
a bike and start discovering the incredible sculptures of the forgotten giants
yourself. 

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