Image: Susie Elliott, Ocean painting I (detail), 2023. Courtesy of the artist.
Exchange project WASALIWA in Fiji and Amsterdam
In the International exchange project WASALIWA two groups of artists and writers based in Fiji and Amsterdam came together to look at the ecological history and future of the Pacific Islands through a series of workshops.
From the 5th to the 8th of June 2023 two groups of artists have come together both at Oceania Arts Centre (University of the South Pacific) in Suva, Fiji, and at Framer Framed in Amsterdam to look at the ecological crisis from the specific locality of the Pacific Islands. Under the guidance of Fijian artist Susie Elliott and Dutch artist Dorine van Meel the artists have read poems and essays from different Pacific Islanders, including the work of Kanaka Maoli poet, educator, and activist Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio, the Indigenous human rights lawyer and writer from Guam Julian Aguon, the writer and performer of Marshall Islander ancestry Kathy Jetn̄il-Kijiner and the Fijian writer Epeli Hau’ofa, founder of the Oceania Arts Centre.
These texts, that are testimonies to the violent (neo-) colonialist practices of deforestation, militarisation, nuclear testing and pollution of the islands, functioned as starting points for the different poetic reflections the artists developed for one another through a call and response format. The reflections, or gifts, consisted of collectively poems, video messages, letters and drawings and they were sent at the end of each workshop to the other group, who, due to the time difference, would find them in their inbox at the start of their next workshop.
The exchange started with an artist talk by Susie Elliott, who described her journey to become an artist amid a society where this wasn’t an obvious choice. After having worked as separate groups in the three following workshops, the groups met online again on the fourth day of the programme for a final collective spoken word performance. This meeting was also used to express the hope that this exchange project could be the beginning of a long term dialogue and collaboration.
The participating artists In Suva, Fiji were:
And in Amsterdam, The Netherlands:
This project is part of the Climate Imaginaries at Sea programme, a collaboration between the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (Visual Methodologies Collective), Amsterdam University of the Arts (DAS Research), the Sandberg Institute (Planetary Poetics), Gerrit Rietveld Academie (Art & Spatial Praxis), Framer Framed and ARIAS. The project is kindly supported by the Centre of Expertise for Creative Innovation (CoECI).
Drawing letter from Marysia Derejko to Ulamila Bulamaibau
Drawing letter from Ulamila Bulamaibau to Marysia Derejko
I can tell you of the thunderous
Chorus of Ua (waves)
Rhythms of wasawasa (sea) Melodies from
The wasaliwa (ocean)
I can tell you of her lyrics full of wisdom
Her voice heavy and deep.
Ancient lyrics sung from a time before mine
Ancient lyrics my ancestors understood
Ancient lyrics of rock and rain
Of sand shell and sea
Ancient lyrics we no longer sing.
– Atueta Rabuka
Poem and drawing: Atueta Rabuka.