Water Is Rising
Last night I went to the Flynn Center to see a performance of Water Is Rising. The performance featured 36 performers from the islands of Karibati, Tuvalu, Tokelau, small islands in the far Pacific that scientists forecast will be among the first to disappear due to global climate change. The show included several deeply moving appeals for aid in stopping climate change. Although the science of climate change was mentioned, the focus was on the Islanders’ hope the population of the Industrialized countries will see the humanity of the performers, and act decisively to protect the Islanders’ cultures, islands, and lives. They repeatedly asserted their right to be loved and assisted in their quest to save their homelands. There was an immediacy to their appeals; the water that surrounds their islands is rising rapidly.
The dominant symbols in the show are water and the human heart. These proved both appropriate and powerful. After all, their show is a mission of hope and heart, and they live on small islands that seem to float on the waters of the broad Pacific ocean. A repeated joke was that the cast had paddled their canoes all the way to the U.S.. This, too, was a dramatic metaphor suggesting both the history of the peoples of the Pacific atolls, and the very act of carrying a message from one island to another (we are living on Turtle Island!)
The Water Is Rising consisted of brief narratives about the cast’s love of their islands, and songs and dances about their lives and island histories. A recitation of their history demonstrates the many challenges they have overcome, including what must have been a brutal occupation by the Japanese during the second World War. The show also took great pains to underscore cultural differences between the islands, as well as similarities between them. Finally, the cast repeatedly expressed hope the world would work together to protect their homes an futures.
Following the show the audience was given the opportunity to meet the artists. I was privileged to chat briefly with two of the men, and get a warm hug from one of the women. We spoke about the world wide suffering climate change is creating for Indigenous people, and the company’s efforts to make Indigenous people everywhere more visible to the Western world. (They greatly enjoyed meeting many Native people when they visited Alaska.) We spoke about our shared identity as Indigenous persons, and the task of working for one another and Pachamama. I was struck repeatedly by their great warmth, open hearts, and direct requests for aid. They explained many of the people of their islands are Christians, and their faith is a crucial aspect of their lives and cultural heritage. I cannot remember having met any group of people who showed such trust, compassion, and openheartedness. Seeing their production, and meeting them post-performance was indeed a blessing.
I hope you will share this brief blog post with others. Climate change in the form of rising water and drought is truly threatening the cultures and peoples of the Pacific islands. Let us do what we can to answer their requests and prayers.
An additional post on this topic can be found at Dreaming The World.