Photo courtesy of Tété-Michel Kpomassie
Photo courtesy of Tété-Michel Kpomassie
Autumn 2023

In Tété’s Footsteps: The 2023 Pathfinder Issue

A Note from the Editors

It began with a book, encountered in the 1950s by a teenager in a small village in Togo. That book’s descriptions of a frozen, distant land ignited an eight-year journey from the equator to the Arctic, where Tété-Michel Kpomassie became the first African to explore Greenland.

About half a century later, Nigerian-born storyteller Lola Akinmade Åkerström came across Tété’s own book, “An African in Greenland,” and saw herself in his story. She yearned to journey to Greenland to follow in his footsteps.

Then came the 2023 Pathfinder Prize, which Åkerström called “the opportunity of a lifetime.” She gathered her teammates — fellow Nigerian-born writer and photographer Noo Saro-Wiwa and Swedish videographer Erik Jaråker — and in April 2023 they set out on a cultural expedition in Greenland to answer the question: Who gets to tell the story of a place?

Welcome to In Tété’s Footsteps: The 2023 Pathfinder Issue of Hidden Compass — an issue dedicated entirely to stories from that expedition.

Venturing into new artistic territory, we begin with a movie trailer. The team’s short documentary, shot by videographer Erik Jaråker, premieres in December — but in our Quest department, you can find a sneak peek at “In Tété’s Footsteps.”

Then we turn to storyteller Noo Saro-Wiwa, who brings the team’s Quest to life in an image-rich feature narrative of Greenland’s landscapes, Tété’s travels, and her own inspiration to answer Tété’s Call

She then meditates on the effects of climate change by weaving together observations on modernization, hunter-gatherer culture, and even resource extraction in her home country of Nigeria for our Human & Nature story, When We Cannot Walk Across the Sea.

Meanwhile, amidst cross-genre soundstages, expedition leader Lola Akinmade Åkerström urges us to listen to The Sound of History in our Time Travel feature, showcasing a momentous collaboration of Inuit voices.

Then, through one woman’s evocative performance, Åkerström introduces us to a 4,000-year-old Greenlandic tradition that was almost lost. As we witness the beautiful and the unsettling in this Chasing Demons story, The Uneasy Allure of Uaajeerneq is revealed.

The team came home with an abundance of striking images — more than we could include in the photo-rich stories above. So, in our Portrait department, we present Character Encounters, a gallery of 20 captivating photos that continue to bring the expedition to life.

Tété is now 82 years old. His book inspired a generation of explorers. Now, who will they inspire with their own stories?

Yours in curious exploration,

Sivani Babu and Sabine K. Bergmann, Hidden Compass Co-founders