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February 18 2014

January 21 2014

Pacific Climate Warriors: “We Are Not Drowning, We Are Fighting”

“We must draw on our heritage and ancestral strength to defend our homes.” Photo by Navneet Narayan for

This post was written by Fenton Lutunatabua for Pacific and is published on Global Voices as part of a content sharing agreement.

For many years, the story told about Pacific Islanders is one that portrayed them as mere victims, a far away people who cannot do anything about the causes or realities of climate change. The media has portrayed Pacific Islanders as helpless victims ready to drown with their islands or become refugees.

So in a move to change this narrative and harness more support from people around the region, a new campaign has been launched by in the Pacific vowing to make 2014 the year that people of the Pacific Islands stand up for themselves in the face of threats to their land and ocean from climate change.

The #StandUpForThePacific Campaign will seek to call upon people throughout the region to pledge their commitment to be active in 2014 in standing up for the Pacific Islands in the face of the regions biggest threat: climate change.

The campaign will allow Pacific Islanders to be positioned within a unified narrative of cultural revival and strength, as Warriors of the Pacific, prepared to rise up to protect their land, ocean and identity.

Already more than 600 people have taken a pledge, to make 2014 the year that the Pacific Islands stand up for ourselves in the face of climate change, and in the face of the fossil fuel industry. Together we will change the narrative from that of “they are drowning victims” to they’re powerful, peaceful warriors, drawing on our cultural strength to confront the fossil fuel industry that threatens our very existence.

As we get further into 2014, we’ll be turning the pledges into action, pressuring multinational corporations that operate in the Pacific Islands to divest from the fossil fuel industry. Let’s just say, if they don’t they will be confronted by peaceful, warrior action.

Below a series of photographs depict the warriors from various islands calling upon the people of the land and the sea to become Warriors of the Pacific, regardless of their profession, gender, age, location or creed…

Pacific islanders rising

“We are ready to draw on our traditions and cultures and ignite our warrior spirit to defend our island homes.” Photo by Navneet Narayan for

Pacific islanders rising

“We will draw on our cultural truths and use that in this fight against the fossil fuel industry” Photo by Navneet Narayan for

Pacific islanders rising

“We are prepared to work with our Pacific Islander brothers and sisters to take out fight to the big polluters” Photo by Navneet Narayan for

Pacific islanders rising

“As Pacific Islanders we are ready to take our message to the fossil fuel industry” Photo by Navneet Narayan for

Pacific islanders rising

“We know we are the least contributors to climate change and yet we are the most affected, we also know what needs to be done and how to get to that end goal of creating a future we all deserve” Photo by Navneet Narayan for

January 16 2014

A Papuan Woman's Love Letter to an Indonesian Soldier

Photo from Papuan Voices

Photo from Papuan Voices

EngageMedia has uploaded a video about a Papuan woman's love letter to an Indonesian soldier who was once stationed in the border patrol unit in a village near Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. The video also highlighted the sexual assaults allegedly committed by some Indonesian soldiers in the border.

April 09 2012

One Day on Earth: Worldwide Collaborative Music Video Released

A new music video has been released in preparation for the worldwide screening of the Global Collaborative film One Day on Earth, which will take place in locations all around the planet on Earth Day (22 April, 2012).  The video features musicians, poets and dancers captured on film all during the same 24 hour period in 10 October, 2012, artfully recut and remixed by Cut Chemist.


The collaborative film One Day on Earth was filmed all on the same day, October 10, 2010, with more than 3,000 hours of footage sent in from all corners of the world, showcasing the amazing diversity, conflict, tragedy, and triumph that occurs in one day. The Global Screening will take place on Earth Day (April 22, 2012) in every country of the world, with the assistance of World Heritage Sites and the United Nations.

The music video includes footage from India, Papua New Guinea, Benin, Burkina Faso, USA, China, North Korea, Mongolia, Kenya, Afghanistan, Jamaica, Spain, Taiwan and many other locations.

You can read more about the upcoming screening on our previous post One Day on Earth: Global Screening of Worldwide Collaborative Film and you can sign up for a screening in your city or town on the One Day on Earth site.

May 24 2011

Ulli Beier obituary

Academic, editor and energetic promoter of African culture

The first Conference of Black Artists and Writers in Paris in 1956 proved an epiphany for Ulli Beier, who has died aged 88, igniting his desire to promote the world of black culture. He returned to his university post in Ibadan, Nigeria's third city, and with another German-born scholar, Janheinz Jahn, started the magazine Black Orpheus, based on Jean-Paul Sartre's 1948 manifesto of that name. It became a significant force in the golden cultural decade that followed in Ibadan, and Ulli moved from the study of phonetics to the more adventurous extramural department.

Ulli became one of a team of free-operating teachers who moved out into the countryside. Lalage Bown, who worked there in the early 1960s, says the department was "giving people a chance to develop their own cultural identity".

Ulli and his Austrian-born wife Susanne Wenger went to live first in Ede, and then, in 1960, Oshogbo, about 50 miles north-east of Ibadan. It was a typical Yoruba town attractive to both of them. The Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka wrote: "An assignment roulette in Europe brought them to Nigeria and both promptly 'went native', Susanne not just culturally, but viscerally and spiritually, holding nothing back in herself, and was inducted into the priesthood of the goddess of the Osun river."

Ibadan's burgeoning cultural life gave Ulli full rein to develop his skills as a cultural entrepreneur – his real genius – although he was also a prolific writer and over the course of 50 years produced a plethora of material on African art and literature, including The Penguin Book of Modern African Poetry (1963). He was one of the initiators of the Oshogbo school of artists, although Susanne played a key role, and he encouraged a number of artists such as Muraina Oyelami and Twins Seven-Seven. He was also instrumental in bringing to wider attention the Oshogbo theatre troupe of Duro Ladipo, whose work Oba Koso was performed at the Commonwealth arts festival in London in 1965.

The aluminium panel-beater Ashiru, whose works have become treasured collectors' pieces, was discovered by Susanne who, walking one day in the dusty streets of Oshogbo, said a former colleague, "in her high heels, accidentally kicked a little copper lion in the dust, and immediately insisted on finding the creator, who turned out to be a local blacksmith." But if Susanne identified, Ulli promoted.

What struck me when interviewing Ulli was his single-mindedness and his imaginative energy, seen in the way he helped found the Mbari club in Ibadan. Mbari is Igbo for "open space", in this case a venue where new writers and artists could meet and perform their work. Many celebrated names helped launch their careers there. Ulli was not its only founder (as is sometimes claimed), but his entrepreneurial skills helped make it tick. A similar club, Mbari Mbayo – a Yoruba expression for happiness – was formed in Oshogbo.

It may be that Ulli, restlessly questing for the authentic, felt that Oshogbo, now an undoubted success, no longer needed him. He developed a new fascination with the artist who went under the pseudonym of "Middle Art", one of the highly original Igbo sign-painters across the Niger, whose work he collected, representing a deeper authenticity than the Oshogbo school. He also looked to the creativity of the Nsukka school of mainly Igbo artists, based at Nsukka University, to the east.

Thus the arrival of the civil war in 1966-67 was a shattering blow, and although he left before the war, the 1966 massacres and the retreat of the Igbo to their heartland was traumatic for him. He had by now divorced Susanne and married Georgina, an artist who had been in Nigeria since 1959, first of all at the art school in Zaria, to the north, but gravitating in 1963 to join Ulli in Oshogbo, which she described as the beginning of their lifelong partnership.

In 1967 they went together to Papua New Guinea, where there was new territory to conquer. They stayed for four years and began to sow seeds of artistic development in a country whose native genius was more culturally unformed than Nigeria. The jury is still out on how much influence they were able to wield, but there was no doubt that in PNG their contribution to cultural life was greatly appreciated.

But it was never quite Nigeria, and from 1971 to 1974 they went back to the University of Ife, working with Soyinka. Ulli's creative universality and complexity – yearning for both diversity and fusion – caused the critic Keith Botsford to comment: "I've known no other man like him. No single country really deserves him; there is no traditional culture that does not need him."

A native of Glowitz in Mecklenburg, in the old Prussian heartland of Germany, Beier was the son of a doctor with a fine appreciation of the arts. The family were non-practising Jews, and in the mid-1930s they moved to British-ruled Palestine to escape Nazi rule. Although they were interned for a period during the second world war, young Ulli satisfied his thirst for education by pursuing an external degree at London University. After the war he moved to London for a second degree, in phonetics.

Visiting Paris in 1949 he met, was captivated by and married the eccentric Susanne. He had already obtained a teaching position at the newly formed University of Ibadan, where the two of them went in October 1950.

His book In a Colonial University (1993) recounts how he went to Nigeria simply foreseeing "an interesting adventure", as a refugee who had "experienced three different cultures" but had no congenial home. "I did not know who I was, what I wanted from life," but after two years in Nigeria he had begun to find an identity. Reacting negatively to the "colonial posing" he found at the university, he becoming more and more involved in the Yoruba environment around him.

In 1974, Ulli and Georgina returned to the Pacific, living mainly in Australia, although from 1989 to 1997 Ulli was invited by the University of Bayreuth to set up a cultural centre devoted to African art and its global fusion, called Iwalewa Haus (iwalewa being Yoruba for "character is beauty"). The idea of having an African shop-window in the town that is a shrine to Richard Wagner may well have appealed to Ulli's sense of cultural juxtaposition.

Despite his many passionate admirers, he was not without critics in Nigeria, which may have accounted for the refusal of authorities in 2000 to permit him to return to spend his declining years there. This generated a furious debate in Nigerian newspapers, and some of the issues came up at the 80th birthday colloquium held at Iwalewa Haus in 2002, Ulli Beier – a Passion for Difference, a title that epitomised his extraordinary career.

He is survived by Georgina and their sons, Sebastian and Tunji.

• Horst Ulrich Beier, writer and cultural entrepreneur, born 31 May 1922; died 3 April 2011 © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

November 18 2009

Papua New Guinea: Ursula Rakova Leads Relocation Efforts

“Once upon a time my island was a tropical paradise. It is a tropical paradise no more.”

That is how Ursula Rakova described the state of her homeland during a recent panel discussion during Climate Week in New York City. She has been a vocal and tireless activist to raise awareness and attract support to lead the relocation of the residents of the Cataret Islands in Papua New Guinea. These islands are gradually being flooded due to the rising sea levels attributed to climate change, and it is predicted that the islands will be completely submerged by the year 2015.

Higher levels of seawater has destroyed crops and harmed supplies of drinking water. As a result, as seen in this video produced by the United Nations University, the residents on the islands have been going hungry.

Local solutions on a sinking paradise, Carterets Islands, Papua New Guinea from UNUChannel on Vimeo.

As a result, the residents, which are being considered the first climate refugees, must be relocated to the larger Bougainville Island. This complex task is being led by Rakova, who was given this enormous responsibility by the elders and the rest of her community. She has been spanning the globe to raise awareness, but more importantly, raise funds to physically relocate the approximately 120 families.

Some of the relocation has already taken place, but not without difficulties. Journalist Dan Box has been documenting the process and has been in touch with Rakova and other groups on the island, who provide updates on the situation. Box writes on his blog Journey to the Sinking Lands:

The initial evacuation (of five men, who were the fathers of five families) to the mainland has hit understandable troubles: Of the five who formed the first wave of migrants leaving the islands to build new homes on the mainland, three have returned to the islands. Apparently, they were finding it too hard living in a new place and being apart from their families. Three men have been chosen to replace them and are expected to make the journey soon. The gardens that have been planted by the original five men, however, have begun to bear fruit and veg and with this food available, the remaining two men can send for their families to join them.

In this video, Rakova describes why this campaign is necessary:

I want to make sure that my people have a future life for the generations to come. I would say to people that believe climate change is not happening, if you have the heart to feel that you are flesh and blood? To you it is a choice of lifestyle. For us, who are already suffering the impact of climate change and rising sea levels, it is a choice of life and death, because if we do not move, we are going to be drowned. And we are already losing our homelands. I think you do not need to question whether this is climate change or not. You should be able to put yourself in our shoes, and maybe travel to our islands; we invite you to travel to our islands and see it for yourself.


if they do not come up with a good solution in the Copenhagen meeting, my people will drown. Islands in the Pacific and elsewhere in the world will disappear, within the next twenty years. We will all lose our homeland, and this is my fear, that we are going to lose our ancestral homes and this is human rights, it is abusing our right to live in our ancestral homeland.

The money needed to evacuate the residents has not been coming in as had been hoped writes Rakova in an email to Box. These funds are important to help purchase land and to build homes for the residents. She will continue her campaign, when she will participate in activities during the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark from December 7-18.

Thumbnail by Oxfam International

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