In University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo Professor Jackie Johnson’s theatre class last spring, she shared with her students a performance piece called Undesirable Elements by Ping Chong and Company. Student Randon Jack was moved by the performance and felt inspired to create a work in the spirit of Ping Chong’s work when he prepared for the course’s final exam. Jack, who was born and raised in Majuro, Marshall Islands, created a work is called Ta in “Marshall Islands?”
“Randon used the style and spirit of that (Ping Chong) effort to create his own version, reflecting on life in his atoll,” explains Johnson. “While very serious in nature, it begins with a true look at life on Randon’s atoll, sketches the lifestyle and traditions he holds dear, then reflects on the fragility of it all if/when sea level rise destroys his land.”
Johnson says the powerful final performance was the highlight of the semester.
“I believe that Ta encapsulates the range of pride and concern Randon feels about his home,” says Johnson. “Within the piece, he crafted images that led us through daily life, then shifted our attention to what would be lost because of the rising sea dilemma. Full of poignancy, Randon delivered the work with sensitivity, smiling at the memories and allowing the weight of the inevitable to wash over us at the end of the performance. There were gasps among his classmates and I was moved to tears.”
An excerpt from Jack’s work regarding sea level rise and the impact on his home.
What do I think of,
When I hear the words,
Sea level rise?
Becoming bigger and more frequent
Nothing our parents or grandparents
Have seen before
Waves crashing along the coasts
Where the graves face the sea
These tombs broken
Are the deceased at peace now?
Homes broken down by the waves
Forcing families to move
But where else can they go?
Where else can we go?
We’ve no mountains to move to
For bigger nations to help us
Prevent sea level rise
Stop burning fossil fuels
But no one listens
They don’t care
As they did not care for us
When they first “discovered” us
(For Jack’s full piece, Ta in “Marshall Islands?”, go to UH Hilo Stories.)
“He took an issue that affects him personally and used the performance medium to bring it to a new level of understanding,” says Johnson. “The more people who hear this message, the better.”
For the full story, go the UH Hilo Stories.
—From UH Hilo Stories
This article is part of a series on curriculum and projects at UH Hilo focusing on sustainability. Read the previous stories:
- Climate change course challenges UH Hilo students to find solutions, September 11, 2017
- Sustainable agriculture practiced at UH Hilo learning gardens, September 18, 2017
—By Susan Enright