Water is Rising: Where Performance and Purpose Collide

Posted on 19. Oct, 2011 by in Design & Culture, Events

Last week, the performance group Water is Rising made an appearance at UCLA. Thirty-six dancers and musicians traveled to the United States for the very first time.

The project began three years ago as a way to harness the power of performance art in an impassioned plea for global awareness and social change. The project participants live on Kiribati, Tuvalu and Tokelau, island nations whose highest elevations range for 9 to 15 feet above sea level. The 2009 UN Conference on Climate Change highlighted their plight to combat sea level rise and preserve their cultural heritage.

UCLA was the first of fifteen stops on their US tour. Their residency included three events: a film screening on Wednesday, a panel discussion on Thursday, and a dance performance on Saturday. The event was co-sponsored by the UCLA Center for Intercultural Performance and the UCLA Institute for Environment and Sustainability.

This blogger attended an early performance on Wednesday. The performers divided into three groups, and performed two numbers representing each of the three islands.

Then, two speakers representing Tuvalu and Tokelau fielded questions during a Q & A. The first speaker was Mikaele (Mika) Maiava, Artistic Director of Water is Rising and a representative of Tokelau. The other was a representative from Tuvalu, Andrew Semeli. Below are some of their answers to audience questions.

Mikaele Maiava

Q: What do you hope to gain from this tour?

Mika (M): Tokelau is smaller than 10 square meters, and will disappear within 50 years if countries do not curb their carbon emissions. We are using culture as a way to transmit our message- we don’t want to leave our islands and become climate refugees.

Q: What are some of the visible effects of climate change that you’ve experienced?

Andrew (A): The sea line has been intruding 1-2 meters a year. Tuvalu is also experiencing drought right now. The change has been increasing in the past 10 years, the last 5 years especially.

M: Evidence that I’ve seen includes coral bleaching, fewer fish, increased water salinity, and more direct and intense sunlight on the island.

Q: What are some of the measures your islands are taking to combat climate change?

A: Tuvalu is trying to establish a Youth Parliament so younger generations can get involved in this effort.

M: The Tokelau National Strategic Plan includes a section on sustainability. In in, Tokelau declares it will work towards running on alternative energy.

Q: Have you experienced any changes in diet?

A: Since the water is warmer, our fish catch is much smaller. As a result, we are eating less tuna.

M: We are spending more on imported food to supplement our traditional seafood-based diet.

The takeaway message from both the performance and the Q&A was a call to action. On the Water is Rising website, the project makes their suggestions for getting into action. One of their recommendations is to invest or get a green job. They mention groups such as Net Impact and Sustainability Recruiting. Most importantly, they highlight Opportunity Green as a way to learn about green business.

Water is Rising is an inspirational group, and a living representation of why climate change is a worldwide phenomenon. They encourage their supporters to educate themselves, and use innovative projects like OG to get out their message.

(photo source: Water is Rising)

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