Woman lying on her back on a concrete pier. The waves are washing up on her and she is holding on trying not to get pulled into the sea.

The breathing sea: Three short films

2 May to 30 June 2022 | Te Puna Foundation Gallery, Ground floor
Mon to Fri – 9am to 5pm | Sat – 9am to 1pm

See three artistic responses to the global effects of climate change that explore the vulnerability and resilience of island nations, and their people.

Two works by Angela Tiatia

In Holding On and Lick, Australian-based New Zealand artist Angela Tiatia tests her endurance against the ocean current and the rising tide of Tuvalu, an island nation facing unlivable conditions within fifty years. Angela proudly displays her malu – the traditional leg tattoo of Samoan women. The word ‘malu’ means to be protected and sheltered; as Angela clings to the land, she reflects the ways Pacific peoples hold onto and protect their islands as the rising sea threatens their way of life.

Rise: From One Island to Another

Rise: From One Island to Another, directed by Dan Lin, is a lyrical collaboration between Marshallese poet Kathy Jetn̄il-Kijiner and Inuk writer Aka Niviâna. Together, they stand their ground on a melting glacier in Greenland to call out global inaction on the climate crisis.

Watch Rise: From One Island to Another

Embedded content: https://vimeo.com/289369328/bf8c8de069
  • Transcript — Rise: From One Island to Another

    Speakers

    Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, Aka Niviâna

    Visual

    This six minute videos show two woman talking to each other one from Marshall Isands and one from Aelon Kein Ad, Marshall Islands and the other Kalaallit Nunaat, Greenland. There are pictures from each of the landscapes as they speak.

    Audio

    Backgoround music.

    Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner: Sister of ice and snow
    I’m coming to you
    from the land of my ancestors,
    from atolls, sunken volcanoes--undersea descent
    of sleeping giants

    Aka Niviâna: Sister of ocean and sand,
    I welcome you
    to the land of my ancestors
    --to the land where they sacrificed their lives

    to make mine possible
    --to the land

    of survivors.

    Both: I’m coming to you
    from the land my ancestors chose.
    Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner:Aelon Kein Ad,
    Marshall Islands,
    a country more sea than land.
    Aka Niviâna: I welcome you to Kalaallit Nunaat,
    Greenland,
    the biggest island on earth.

    Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner:Sister of ice and snow,
    I bring with me these shells
    that I picked from the shores
    of Bikini atoll and Runit Dome

    Aka Niviâna: Sister of ocean and sand,
    I hold these stones
    picked from the shores of Nuuk,
    the foundation of the land I call my home.

    Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner:With these shells I bring a story of long ago
    two sisters frozen in time on the island of Ujae,
    one magically turned into stone
    the other who chose that life
    to be rooted by her sister’s side.
    To this day, the two sisters
    can be seen by the edge of the reef,
    a lesson in permanence.

    Aka Niviâna: With these rocks I bring
    a story told countless times
    a story about Sassuma Arnaa, Mother of the Sea,
    who lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean.

    This is a story about
    the Guardian of the Sea.
    She sees the greed in our hearts,
    the disrespect in our eyes.
    Every whale, every stream,
    every iceberg
    are her children.

    When we disrespect them
    she gives us what we deserve,
    a lesson in respect.

    Both: Do we deserve the melting ice?
    Aka Niviâna: the hungry polar bears coming to our islands
    or the colossal icebergs hitting these waters with rage
    Do we deserve
    their mother,
    coming for our homes
    for our lives?

    From one island to another
    Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner: I ask for solutions.
    From one island to another
    Aka Niviâna: I ask for your problems

    Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner: Let me show you the tide
    that comes for us faster
    than we’d like to admit.
    Let me show you
    airports underwater
    bulldozed reefs, blasted sands
    and plans to build new atolls
    forcing land
    from an ancient, rising sea,
    forcing us to imagine
    turning ourselves to stone.

    Aka Niviâna: Sister of ocean and sand,
    Can you see our glaciers groaning
    with the weight of the world’s heat?
    I wait for you, here,
    on the land of my ancestors
    heart heavy with a thirst
    for solutions
    Both: as I watch this land
    change
    while the World remains silent.

    Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner: Sister of ice and snow,
    I come to you now in grief
    Both: mourning landscapes
    that are always forced to change

    Aka Niviâna: first through wars inflicted on us
    Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner: then through nuclear waste
    dumped
    in our waters
    Aka Niviâna: on our ice
    Both: and now this.

    Aka Niviâna: Sister of ocean and sand,
    I offer you these rocks,
    the foundation of my home.
    On our journey
    may the same unshakable foundation
    connect us,
    make us stronger,
    than the colonizing monsters
    that to this day devour our lives
    for their pleasure.
    Both: The very same beasts
    Aka Niviâna: that now decide,
    who should live
    Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner: who should die.

    Sister of ice and snow,
    I offer you this shell
    and the story of the two sisters
    as testament
    as declaration
    that despite everything
    we will not leave.
    Instead
    we will choose stone.
    We will choose
    to be rooted in this reef
    forever.

    Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner: From these islands
    Aka Niviâna: we ask for solutions.
    Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner: From these islands

    Both: we ask
    we demand that the world see beyond
    Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner: SUV’s, ac’s, their pre-packaged convenience
    their oil-slicked dreams,
    Aka Niviâna: beyond the belief
    that tomorrow will never happen,
    Both: that this
    is merely an inconvenient truth.
    Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner:Let me bring my home to yours.
    Both: Let’s watch as Miami, New York,
    Shanghai, Amsterdam, London,
    Rio de Janeiro, and Osaka
    try to breathe underwater.
    Aka Niviâna: You think you have decades
    before your homes fall beneath tides?
    Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner:We have years.
    We have months
    before you sacrifice us again
    before you watch from your tv and computer screens waiting
    to see if we will still be breathing
    while you do nothing.

    Aka Niviâna: My sister,
    From one island to another
    I give to you these rocks
    as a reminder
    that our lives matter more than their power
    that life in all forms demands
    the same respect we all give to money
    Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner:that these issues affect each and everyone of us
    None of us is immune

    Both: And that each and everyone of us has to decide
    if we
    will
    rise

Transcript — Rise: From One Island to Another

Speakers

Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, Aka Niviâna

Visual

This six minute videos show two woman talking to each other one from Marshall Isands and one from Aelon Kein Ad, Marshall Islands and the other Kalaallit Nunaat, Greenland. There are pictures from each of the landscapes as they speak.

Audio

Backgoround music.

Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner: Sister of ice and snow
I’m coming to you
from the land of my ancestors,
from atolls, sunken volcanoes--undersea descent
of sleeping giants

Aka Niviâna: Sister of ocean and sand,
I welcome you
to the land of my ancestors
--to the land where they sacrificed their lives

to make mine possible
--to the land

of survivors.

Both: I’m coming to you
from the land my ancestors chose.
Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner:Aelon Kein Ad,
Marshall Islands,
a country more sea than land.
Aka Niviâna: I welcome you to Kalaallit Nunaat,
Greenland,
the biggest island on earth.

Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner:Sister of ice and snow,
I bring with me these shells
that I picked from the shores
of Bikini atoll and Runit Dome

Aka Niviâna: Sister of ocean and sand,
I hold these stones
picked from the shores of Nuuk,
the foundation of the land I call my home.

Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner:With these shells I bring a story of long ago
two sisters frozen in time on the island of Ujae,
one magically turned into stone
the other who chose that life
to be rooted by her sister’s side.
To this day, the two sisters
can be seen by the edge of the reef,
a lesson in permanence.

Aka Niviâna: With these rocks I bring
a story told countless times
a story about Sassuma Arnaa, Mother of the Sea,
who lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean.

This is a story about
the Guardian of the Sea.
She sees the greed in our hearts,
the disrespect in our eyes.
Every whale, every stream,
every iceberg
are her children.

When we disrespect them
she gives us what we deserve,
a lesson in respect.

Both: Do we deserve the melting ice?
Aka Niviâna: the hungry polar bears coming to our islands
or the colossal icebergs hitting these waters with rage
Do we deserve
their mother,
coming for our homes
for our lives?

From one island to another
Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner: I ask for solutions.
From one island to another
Aka Niviâna: I ask for your problems

Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner: Let me show you the tide
that comes for us faster
than we’d like to admit.
Let me show you
airports underwater
bulldozed reefs, blasted sands
and plans to build new atolls
forcing land
from an ancient, rising sea,
forcing us to imagine
turning ourselves to stone.

Aka Niviâna: Sister of ocean and sand,
Can you see our glaciers groaning
with the weight of the world’s heat?
I wait for you, here,
on the land of my ancestors
heart heavy with a thirst
for solutions
Both: as I watch this land
change
while the World remains silent.

Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner: Sister of ice and snow,
I come to you now in grief
Both: mourning landscapes
that are always forced to change

Aka Niviâna: first through wars inflicted on us
Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner: then through nuclear waste
dumped
in our waters
Aka Niviâna: on our ice
Both: and now this.

Aka Niviâna: Sister of ocean and sand,
I offer you these rocks,
the foundation of my home.
On our journey
may the same unshakable foundation
connect us,
make us stronger,
than the colonizing monsters
that to this day devour our lives
for their pleasure.
Both: The very same beasts
Aka Niviâna: that now decide,
who should live
Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner: who should die.

Sister of ice and snow,
I offer you this shell
and the story of the two sisters
as testament
as declaration
that despite everything
we will not leave.
Instead
we will choose stone.
We will choose
to be rooted in this reef
forever.

Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner: From these islands
Aka Niviâna: we ask for solutions.
Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner: From these islands

Both: we ask
we demand that the world see beyond
Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner: SUV’s, ac’s, their pre-packaged convenience
their oil-slicked dreams,
Aka Niviâna: beyond the belief
that tomorrow will never happen,
Both: that this
is merely an inconvenient truth.
Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner:Let me bring my home to yours.
Both: Let’s watch as Miami, New York,
Shanghai, Amsterdam, London,
Rio de Janeiro, and Osaka
try to breathe underwater.
Aka Niviâna: You think you have decades
before your homes fall beneath tides?
Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner:We have years.
We have months
before you sacrifice us again
before you watch from your tv and computer screens waiting
to see if we will still be breathing
while you do nothing.

Aka Niviâna: My sister,
From one island to another
I give to you these rocks
as a reminder
that our lives matter more than their power
that life in all forms demands
the same respect we all give to money
Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner:that these issues affect each and everyone of us
None of us is immune

Both: And that each and everyone of us has to decide
if we
will
rise


Find out about the making of ‘Rise: From One Island to Another’

Free exhibition

The three films will be on display throughout the day. Entry is free.

About the artists

Angela Tiatia (b. 1973, Aotearoa New Zealand / Australia / Samoa) explores contemporary culture in her practice, drawing attention to its relationship to representation, gender, neo-colonialism and the commodification of the body and place, often through the lenses of history and popular culture. Born in Auckland, New Zealand, Angela Tiatia is of Samoan and Australian heritage. Her work is held in numerous public collections throughout Australia and Aotearoa, including the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.

Kathy Jetn̄il-Kijiner (b. 1989, Marshall Islands/Hawai'i) is a poet of Marshallese ancestry. She received international acclaim through her performance at the opening of the United Nations Climate Summit in New York in 2014. Her writing and performances have been featured by CNN, Democracy Now, Huffington Post, and more. In February 2017, the University of Arizona Press published her first collection of poetry, Iep Jāltok: Poems from a Marshallese Daughter. Her work has recently evolved and begun to inhabit gallery and performance art spaces. Kathy also co-founded the non-profit Jo-Jikum, dedicated to empowering Marshallese youth to seek solutions to climate change and other environmental impacts threatening their home island.

Aka Niviâna (b. 1995, Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland) / Denmark) is an Inuk writer and this is her on-screen debut. Aka started doing poetry with a wish to create nuanced conversations about not only climate change, but also colonialism and Indigenous peoples’ rights. She believes in the importance of representation and the inclusion of black, brown and Indigenous peoples.

Dan Lin (b. 1987, Hawai'i) is a filmmaker and photojournalist based in Hawai'i. He entered the filmmaking world seeking ways to address the complexity of issues arising in the Pacific. He is primarily interested in telling stories of Indigenous peoples, and their connection to the land and sea, in captivating ways. Dan also serves as the Pasifika Storytelling Lead at Nia Tero Foundation, where he and his team work to uplift Indigenous voices and stories across the Pacific region.


Feature image at top of page: Detail from Holding On (2015) by Angela Tiatia. Courtesy of the artist and Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney.