About a month ago, our non-profit Jo-Jikum organized our first ever Jo-Jikum Climate Change Arts Camp. The camp brought together over 30 high school students to the College of the Marshall Islands. During the one week camp, our art and poet instructors taught students how to harness . We drew inspiration from presentations on climate change effects on our islands and its links to waste and coral reef bleaching. We took field trips to our island’s dump site to blink up at mountains of trash. We dove into the waters outside of delap park to swim through dying, and living coral. And we learned about the history of our weaving culture, the patterns and their symbolism, their materials and the long arduous process, the hundred year old mats lonely in cold museums in foreign countries. Together we wove flowers. The week long camp culminated in a Performance and Art Showcase, where artists unveiled their murals and poets performed their pieces. You can watch the spoken word pieces that was performed here and watch a brief video that captures an overview of the week here.
I can definitely say that organizing and being a part of this camp was an incredibly valuable experience for me. I learned not only the logistical skills needed to create an event like this, but I also was inspired by our youth and the art and conversations that took place. Being among all of these artists, it was natural that we drew on each others’ creative energy, and as a result the art work rippled across the mediums. Case in point – the mural below.
This was one of five murals painted by the students during our camp. Below is an explanation they wrote and presented during our Performance and Art Exhibition night.
Kajoor wot wor
In this painting, there are various meanings in it. Half of this girl’s face represents the beauty of the Marshall Islands – that’s why we drew both the Ralik and Ratak Chain. The other half of her face represents what is currently happening in our islands and that’s climate change. But despite the tear drops, scars, and tattoos, we have to show how strong we are – and we will always continue glowing day by day.
Artists: Arianna Abraham from CO-OP High School, Teliah Mejena from Northern Islands High School, Solomon Joel from Assumption High School, and Yoshan Tibon from Norther Islands High School
Our artist teachers who taught at the camp, Jocelyn Ng and Aravapo Leo, were inspired by our participants, specifically this mural, and asked if I would be a model to recreate the mural. The photo below is the result.
From my end, I was also inspired by the students and the conversations that took place, specifically unpacking the ways in which Americanization and Westernization has influenced so much of who I am and how I present myself. From these conversations, I wrote the poem below.
I am a mouthful of glass marbles a rolled tongue
stuck raw in my clogged throat white man’s
burden boiled syrup sweet slowing down my speech
When I was 6 I moved to Hawai‘i learned my name was no longer
Dede it was Kathy I became blacktop negotiations
tetherball tied tongues a new culture to learn
When I was 22 I moved back to Majuro
a small strip of land an ocean
I no longer knew a sea of blank spaces
a place that was no longer home
When I was 24 another Micronesian told me that girls
are westernized/americanized therefore
I stood and watched my cousin
tattoo a stick chart into her back
the buzz of ink a map to find our way
When I was 26 I saw my last name spelled
how it sounds
for the first
I realized I been shaping it wrong
all these years for colonial ears to hear
do you say your name? How
do you say your country? Where
is your country?
Show it to me
Dance for me
Hang on the wall for me
I am a burden of representation
I am boxed in at the bishop museum
an indigenous voice woven for your display
Here you go step right up listen
to this poet listen to this
native tongue – look
she walks and she/
But before I was
A label verifying contents before
I was a glass cage before
the water creeped
up to our shores before I learned
to trust that tide
Before I was confronted
with roots braided into a plastic
to a mountain of trash that’s consumed our home
I was 4
I was crouched slippers
on the dirt path outside my home
watching this world
through a sea glass glow