Angela Tiatia


Angela Tiatia, Tuvalu, 2016, Courtesy: Angela Tiatia, Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney

Angela Tiatia’s video work Tuvalu (2016) captures the everyday life of the inhabitants of Funafuti, the main island of the island state of Tuvalu, from the cockerel’s first crowing right through to the sun setting. With its highest point of elevation just five metres above sea level, this small island archipelago in the South Pacific is among those countries directly impacted by climate change. It also faces other problems besides the rise in sea level that will, at some point, eventually cause the archipelago to disappear: a coastal erosion on the increase, bleached out coral reefs, and ever longer dry seasons. And as the soil becomes ever saltier, the vegetation is dying. It was the artist’s own dismay at one such situation that first prompted the artwork; indeed, the artist herself had grown up on an island on a similar geographic latitude. These quiet, unfussy scenes are accompanied by the constant presence of the water. There is no narrative and no dialogue; rather, we as viewers are invited to concentrate fully on the interplay between the images and the ambient sounds, and to immerse ourselves in the life of these islanders confronted with the loss of their homeland and their culture as a result of global warming, even though they themselves have contributed the least to this crisis and its making.

Angela Tiatia, born 1973, lives in Sydney, Australia.

Rising Sea Levels in Oceania

Some of the Oceanian island groups are just a few metres above sea level and therefore particularly affected by the consequences of global warming. The threat of rising water is compounded by the increasing severity of tropical cyclones and storm surges, which batter the none too resilient buildings and infrastructure of these islands, causing considerable damage to agriculture, too. The groundwater is increasingly non-potable due to salinisation, making drinking water supplies entirely dependent on rainwater. Fishing is now at risk due to coral bleaching, degradation, and the overexploitation of marine ecosystems, jeopardising one of the mainstays of the population’s livelihood. On many of these archipelagos, fleeing to higher elevations is simply not an option. Alternatives to resettling the entire population are being sought even if, technologically, they are by no means tried-and-tested, for instance building a floating and self-sufficient town in French Polynesia. In August 2020, the President of Kiribati, Taneti Maamau, announced that the entire island would be shored up – literally – by more than one metre as part of a co-operation project with China. Houses and infrastructure are to be rebuilt step-by-step on top of the backfilled material, which would itself be extracted from the sea bed.
  • United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Climate Change Adaptation: Tuvalu..
  • The Seasteading Institute, California: The Floating Island Project: French Polynesia.
  • Joshua Mcdonald, „Kiribati Announces Plans to Raise Islands Above Rising Seas“, in: The Diplomat, 14.08.2020.

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