Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Pathways Through the Festival 3: Environment

Are We Stronger Than Winston?
"Where is the Environment?" asked Caroline Lucas yesterday.  She's quite right to challenge the major parties - neither of whom have said anything about this most crucial of issues during the current election campaign.  Across the Atlantic, it now seems that Donald Trump aims to withdraw from the Paris deal on climate change.  It's a scary moment, and no mistake.

This is the time when, more than ever, we need to be listening to the voices of indigenous people, who experience climate change at the front line on a daily basis.  Not only do they feel its effects particularly acutely - they also have long cultural traditions of living in close harmony with nature.  In indigenous cultures, you do not own the land but care for it - passing it on as a healthy inheritance to the future.  Now, more than ever, we need to be engaging with indigenous people as we try to find a way forward in our relationship with a damaged planet.
Reports from Standing Rock
ORIGINS 2017 has a range of inspiring and provocative events about indigenous ideas on the environment, beginning with REPORTS FROM STANDING ROCK on June 11 - a series of short films that show the realities of the protest and explore the depth of the Native American activists' passion to save their land and waters.  Trump's refusal to engage with indigenous protestors may yet prove to be his political undoing - his failure to engage with environmental issues is certainly very dangerous for us all.
Are We Stronger than Winston?
Just how dangerous is shown in ARE WE STRONGER THAN WINSTON? by VOU Dance Company from Fiji, performing at The Place on June 23 and 24.  Winston was the cyclone that hit Fiji in February 2016: the worst recorded tropical storm in the history of the South Pacific, killing 42 people and causing tens of thousands to flee their homes. In the words of the choreographer, Navitalai Waqavotuwale: "Soon the house that once sheltered us, now threatened our very lives as it collapsed in shreds around us. Soon the ocean that once fed us came pounding at our doors demanding our breath. Soon the wind that once rippled through our children's hair and carried their voices homeward, snatched them from our very arms and hauled them beyond the horizon where their voices were heard no more. And soon, mothers were burying their children, and children were burying their mothers."
Melissa Veszi as Poluknalai
A lighter but equally important take on climate change in the Pacific is offered in  Sani Muliaumaseali'i’s new musical for family audiences, BABA THE BAD BABOON.  In this version of a Polynesian folk tale, Baba is an experienced leader who assures the goddess Poluknalai, the supreme protector of animals and nature, that all will be well under his watch - leading to a dire loss of animals and ecology.
Angry Inuk
It's in the Arctic that the effects of climate change are probably most glaringly obvious, as the ice melts at astonishing speed.  Alethea Arnaquq-Baril's remarkable film ANGRY INUK, which has been winning audience awards at film festivals across the planet, is powered by fury at the world's failure to engage with the people who actually live in the Arctic - the Inuit themselves.  Their environmentally sustainable approach to seal hunting - using every part of a non-endangered species for food and clothing, and to give them traction in the global marketplace - is set in sharp contrast with the insanely wasteful approach of western interests in the Artic region.
Tanya Tagaq
So it seems only fitting that the last voice you will hear at ORIGINS this year is an Inuk voice - TANYA TAGAQ.  More than a traditional throat singer, Tanya seems to embody and to vocalise the Arctic landscape itself.  Her extraordinary improvised soundtrack to the silent "documentary" NANOOK OF THE NORTH is a staggering evocation of the beautiful and bare lands that sustain the planet - and that we are all too close to destroying.

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