Rise: From One Island to Another

Watch this poetic expedition between two islanders, one from the Marshall Islands and one from Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland), connecting their realities of melting glaciers and rising sea levels. Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner and Aka Niviâna use their poetry to showcase the linkages between their homelands in the face of climate change. Through this video we get a glimpse at how large, and yet so small and interdependent our world is.

The science behind climate change and its causes has been clear for decades. And yet, it has not been enough to drive the change we need to see in order to salvage our planet. We hope this poem can spark the emotion and drive needed for more people to rise and take action.

This is an invitation to take a few minutes to watch this film, unplug from your daily distractions, immerse yourself in the beauty of our shared home, and let the poetry heal.

Watch

“Sister of ocean and sand, Can you see our glaciers groaning with the weight of the world’s heat?”

“…Sister of ice and snow, I come to you now in grief mourning landscapes that are always forced to change.”

Read the poem

Subtitles available and in other languages. Click on CC button

About the Team

Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner

Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner is a poet of Marshallese ancestry. She received international acclaim through her performance at the opening of the United Nations Climate Summit in New York in 2014. Her writing and performances have been featured by CNN, Democracy Now, Huffington Post, and more. In February 2017, the University of Arizona Press published her first collection of poetry, Iep Jāltok: Poems from a Marshallese Daughter. Her work has recently evolved and begun to inhabit gallery and performance art spaces – her work has been curated by the Honolulu Biennial in Hawai’i in February 2017, then the Smithsonian art lab ‘Ae Kai in July of 2017, and most recently the upcoming Asia Pacific Triennial in Australia in November 2018. Kathy also co-founded the non-profit Jo-Jikum, dedicated to empowering Marshallese youth to seek solutions to climate change and other environmental impacts threatening their home island. She has been selected as one of 13 Climate Warriors by Vogue in 2015 and the Impact Hero of the Year by Earth Company in 2016. She received her Master’s in Pacific Island Studies from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.


Aka Niviâna

Aka Niviâna is a Inuk writer and this is her on-screen debut. Aka started doing poetry with a wish to create nuanced conversations about not only climate change, but also colonialism and indigenous peoples rights. She believes in the importance of representation and the inclusion of black, brown and indigenous peoples.

 


Dan Lin

This is Dan Lin’s second film project. A professional photographer and photojournalist, Dan entered into the film world as a response to the complexity of issues arising from the Pacific, with a desire to provide a more visceral experience for broader audiences. He is primarily interested in telling stories of indigenous peoples and their connection to the land and sea.

 

Nick Stone

Nick Stone is a graduate of NYU’s Tisch School and has worked as a freelance filmmaker and editor for almost twenty years. His work includes everything from national advertising campaigns to independent films and documentaries. His strengths in storytelling and an ear for sound have won him awards. He continues to pursue new ideas, new projects and new ways of telling a story.

 

Rob Lau

Rob is a visual storyteller from the island of O’ahu with a B.A. in Human Ecology from College of the Atlantic. Through filmmaking, his work explores themes of social justice, Hawaiian culture, place-based knowledge, and how art can shift mindsets. A social disruptor in the name of transformative media, Rob strives to weave narratives that point to the future of our humanity while celebrating the cultural wisdom of the past.

 

Oz Go

Oz Go is a filmmaker and the founder of Narrative Lost. This non-profit film studio and artist collective is dedicated to making films that confront the most pressing social issues of our time, and on behalf of deserving organizations worldwide. Oz has also worked on commercial campaigns for Sports Illustrated, Adidas, Four Seasons, and MasterCard. He is a graduate of the University of Hawaii with a major in Anthropology.

The Making of Rise

Learn more about the journey.

The Making of Rise | Ethos

The Making of Rise | The Poem

The Making of Rise | The Journey

You can also read this essay that Bill McKibben wrote about the experience. Published on The Guardian.

Rise

By Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner and Aka Niviâna

 

Sister of ice and snow
I’m coming to you
from the land of my ancestors,
from atolls, sunken volcanoes–undersea descent
of sleeping giants

Sister of ocean and sand,
I welcome you
to the land of my ancestors
–to the land where they sacrificed their lives
to make mine possible
–to the land
of survivors.

I’m coming to you
from the land my ancestors chose.
Aelon Kein Ad,
Marshall Islands,
a country more sea than land.
I welcome you to Kalaallit Nunaat,
Greenland,
the biggest island on earth.

Sister of ice and snow,
I bring with me these shells
that I picked from the shores
of Bikini atoll and Runit Dome

Sister of ocean and sand,
I hold these stones
picked from the shores of Nuuk,
the foundation of the land I call my home.

With these shells I bring a story of long ago
two sisters frozen in time on the island of Ujae,
one magically turned into stone
the other who chose that life
to be rooted by her sister’s side.
To this day, the two sisters
can be seen by the edge of the reef,
a lesson in permanence.

With these rocks I bring
a story told countless times
a story about Sassuma Arnaa, Mother of the Sea,
who lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean.

This is a story about
the guardian of the Sea.
She sees the greed in our hearts,
the disrespect in our eyes.
Every whale, every stream,
every iceberg
are her children.

When we disrespect them
she gives us what we deserve,
a lesson in respect.

Do we deserve the melting ice?
the hungry polar bears coming to our islands
or the colossal icebergs hitting these waters with rage
Do we deserve
their mother,
coming for our homes
for our lives?

From one island to another
I ask for solutions.
From one island to another
I ask for your problems

Let me show you the tide
that comes for us faster
than we’d like to admit.
Let me show you
airports underwater
bulldozed reefs, blasted sands
and plans to build new atolls
forcing land
from an ancient, rising sea,
forcing us to imagine
turning ourselves to stone.

Sister of ocean and sand,
Can you see our glaciers groaning
with the weight of the world’s heat?
I wait for you, here,
on the land of my ancestors
heart heavy with a  thirst
for solutions
as I watch this land
change
while the World remains silent.

Sister of ice and snow,
I come to you now in grief
mourning landscapes
that are always forced to change

first through wars inflicted on us
then through nuclear waste
dumped
in our waters
on our ice
and now this.

Sister of ocean and sand,
I offer you these rocks,
the foundation of my home.
On our journey
may the same unshakable foundation
connect us,
make us stronger,
than the colonizing monsters
that to this day devour our lives
for their pleasure.
The very same beasts
that now decide,
who should live
who should die.

Sister of ice and snow,
I offer you this shell
and the story of the two sisters
as testament
as declaration
that despite everything
we will not leave.
Instead
we will choose stone.
We will choose
to be rooted in this reef
forever.

From these islands
we ask for solutions.
From these islands

we ask
we demand that the world see beyond
SUV’s, ac’s, their pre-packaged convenience
their oil-slicked dreams, beyond the belief
that tomorrow will never happen, that this
is merely an inconvenient truth.
Let me bring my home to yours.
Let’s watch as Miami, New York,
Shanghai, Amsterdam, London,
Rio de Janeiro, and Osaka
try to breathe underwater.
You think you have decades
before your homes fall beneath tides?
We have years.
We have months
before you sacrifice us again
before you watch from your tv and computer screens waiting
to see if we will still be breathing
while you do nothing.

My sister,
From one island to another
I give to you these rocks
as a reminder
that our lives matter more than their power
that life in all forms demands
the same respect we all give to money
that these issues affect each and everyone of us
None of us is immune
And that each and everyone of us has to decide
if we
will
rise

The Process of the Poem

Selecting the Legend

By Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner

Every poet has a different process for the ways in which a poem is a written. Some poems come in a flash of emotion – some require research, a vision, a message, or a specific audience. Lately, my process has begun with one integral aspect: the legend.

With the last few poems I’ve written, I’ve tried to balance the piece by grounding it in some sort of legend – for the poem on nuclear related birth defects, I used the legend of the mejenkwaad, a Marshallese woman demon, to discuss the feeling of horror that I imagined Marshallese women must have felt when giving birth to what came to be called “jellyfish babies.” For the poem I wrote for the Vatican, that had to do with faith, I used the legend of the whale and the bird – a legend that discussed an arrogant whale who was taught a lesson when thousands of birds drank up the ocean and left him beached. This was chosen to discuss faith in collective action.

Read more

For this particular poem, I struggled with finding the right legend. In our beginning stages of discussion, Aka had told me her legend would focus on a powerful woman of the sea. So I went on a hunt for a legend about a woman of the sea. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any concrete ones (save for a few that had to do with more women demons – which wasn’t exactly the vibe I was going for.) I interviewed the elderly scholars at the Customary Language and Law Commission – a commission in Majuro which was made up of experts in our traditions. I asked them if they knew of any legends that featured powerful women. Unfortunately, they said they didn’t know of any, but recommended other people I could speak with. Luckily, around that same time, I received a comprehensive packet of legends transcribed by Marshallese teachers in a workshop with the Curriculum Instruction Assessment team, led by Wilbert Alik. All of these legends were transcribed by teachers from around the Marshalls, and they were written in Marshallese. After slowly reading through a few of them (my reading skills in Marshallese are unfortunately rather slow compared to my English reading skills) I decided on two specific legends. While en route to Greenland in Iceland, I had a skype call with two of the writers of the legends and the Curriculum Assessment Team. We discussed the meaning behind each of the legends, and how they could apply towards our Greenland poem. They were patient with me, and offered up valuable insights.

The legend I ultimately chose was “Ao Aorōk In Io̗kwe” a legend from Ujae that was transcribed by Heynes Jeik. The Marshallese version of the legend is below. There is no exact translation at this time, but here is my own (somewhat rough) summary:

The legend features sisters from Ujae who loved and respected each other very much. One day they decided to have a juggling competition around the entire island. They began their juggling competition – when the eldest reached a certain spot by the edge of the reef, she dropped the shells rock she was juggling, and she suddenly turned into stone. The younger sister, who was following close behind, noticed this strangely shaped rock – when she came closer, she saw that it was her sister. In her grief, she decided to drop the rock she was juggling as well, choosing to turn to stone, so she could stay by her sister’s side. The moral of the story is the love that connected the two sisters.

I asked the group I was skyping with a few questions – why did the elder sister turn into a stone at that specific spot? Was that spot magical? They weren’t sure. But one of the members from the Curriculum Assessment Team offered that she noticed we have many stories that featured the creation of stone, or people turning to stone. We reflected on this a bit, and an observation was offered that stones are permanent – they never disappear, and that stones are a part of our culture as well. After our skype session, I received a message from Heynes Jeik: “…Ij bar kakememej iok bwe ekkar nan jar ke roritto ijoke, rej ba deka ej motan manit in ad, em aolep men ko bunnid rej erom deka, ej einwot juon men eo epan jako nan indeio.” Which loosely translates to, “I just want to remind you that according to our elders, stone is a part of our culture, and everything becomes stone, it’s something that will never disappear.”

I ultimately chose this legend because it features sisters, which I felt fit nicely into the concept of me and Aka as “sisters of ice and snow/sister of ocean and sand.” I also appreciated the concept of stone – the concept of permanence against the destructive forces of climate change. My friend, Lyz Soto, who regularly edits my work, helped me think it through further “the idea of choosing stone so you can always be a part of your home.” This, ultimately, became the declaration I chose to focus on – choosing stone to always be a part of our home.

Aorōk In Io̗kwe

Ri-jeje im ri-bwebwenato: Heynes Jeik

M̗okta ilo aelin ij Ujae, ekar wor ruo leddik raar jokwe im rūttol̗o̗k ilo juon wāto etan Lopinpin. Wāto in ej pād iol̗apl̗ap in Ujae. Ledik rein raar lukkuun em̗m̗an aerro lale doon im jel̗ā n̗ae doon ilo jabdewōt wāween.

Aolep jota ālikin aerro kōn kōm̗m̗ani jerbal ko aerro, erro ej ke arl̗o̗k em ikkure kōn ikkure eo rej ba ekkokowa. Ilo aerro kōn ekkokowa, erro ej ekkokowa im jepool̗e aolepān Ujae en̗ jān arin wāto eo erro ej jokwe ie tak l̗o̗k iar em pool̗e tok likiej im ito ilik to em jepool̗e tok n̄an mo karuk, m̗ween ijabōn tata irilik.

Juon iien ledik eo erūtto eaar l̗ōmn̗ake juon an pepe. Ijoke, eaar jab m̗ōkaj in kwal̗o̗k bwe ejja etale an ledik eo edik l̗ōmn̗ak em̗m̗an ke. Iien eo wōt ak eaar kūr tok ledik eo edik im kwal̗o̗k pepe eo an. Ledik eo erūtto eba, “Jatū, e? Juon e aō pepe.”

Ledik eo edik eba, “Ekwe, ta pepe n̗e am̗?”

Ledik eo erūtto eba, “Em̗m̗an ke n̄e kōjero kōjjakaak ekkokowa jān āniin n̄an aelōn̄ n̗e ireeaar?”

Ledik edik eba, “Lae, ke?”

Ledik eo jein eba, “Aaet.”

Ke ej jiron̄ ledik eo edik kake, ledik eo edik eaar errā kake pepe eo. Bōtaab, eaar kajjitōk ippān ledik eo jein, “Elōn ke juon jem̗l̗o̗k n̄an eo enaaj anjo̗ iaarro kōn l̗ōmn̗ak in am̗ le jeiū?”

Lio erūtto eaar ba, “Aaet. Eo enaaj anjo̗ enaaj wōnm̗aanl̗o̗k wōt im jolete aelōn̄ kein aolep ruo.”

Ledik eo edik eba, “Hmm. Ekwe, em̗ōj kōjero ej jino n̄āāt?”

Ledik eo jein eba, “Kōjero naaj jinoe ālikin jilu raan jān kiio bwe kōjero ejja kappok waarro wa n̄an arro ekkokowa. Kab en l̗ap iien arro kamminene m̗okta jān arro naaj kādon̄e doon. Ālikin an dedel̗o̗k, jero naaj jino kōjjakaak in arro jān arin m̗wiin n̄an arin Lae.”

Ledik ro raar jino kapool̗e Ujae em kappok waerro wa, ak dekā doulul n̄an aerro naaj jino kajjimaron̄ron̄ eo aerro. Ke ej jejjet raan eo, lio erūtto eaar ruj m̗okta em kairuj lio jatin. “Liō, e? Raan eo in. Keememej bwe juon naan an ri-etto ro ej ba ‘Eo ellu, eluuj’.”

Ak erro jibwi wa ko waerro em ettōr iaar l̗o̗k n̄an iaar. Ledik eo erūtto eaar jino jolōn̄ l̗o̗k wa eo waan juon ak eba, “Jemoot!”

Lio edik ebaj jolōn̄ eo waan ak eba, “Kōttar ta!”

Erro jino ekkokowa l̗o̗k ioon bar eo l̗o̗k, o, erro jino tuwaak im jino etal ioon n̗a en̗ metol̗o̗k n̄an m̗aan baal en̗ iarin Ujae. Ke ledik eo erūtto enan̄in tōpar m̗aan baal ippān mejā ko, ak ewōtlo̗k wa eo juon waan. Iien eo wōt ak eaar oktak em erom̗ dekā, jekjekin ledik. Ak ledik eo edik ej epaak tok wōt. Ke ledik eo edik ej epaake dekā eo jekjekin ledik eo jein eba, “Hmm. Āinwōt iaar jab lo dekā in ilo raan ko l̗o̗k.”

El̗ak lukkuun mejeke l̗o̗k, ledik eo jein eo. Em̗ōj kōn an būrom̗ōje, eaar make kōwotlo̗k wa eo waan juon bwe en bar oktak em erom̗ dekā āinwōt ledik eo jein. Iien eo wōt, ak eaar bar oktak em erom̗ dekā. Ak lukkuun m̗ool n̄e en kar tōprak an ledik rein ekkokowa n̄an Lae, en kar ejaak juon n̗a jān arin Lopinpin n̄an arin Lae.

Rainin ioon n̗a en̗ iarin Ujae, epād dekā eo im ej kwal̗o̗k jekjekin ledik rein ruo. Juon wōt dekā, ak ruo annan̄in armej ie. Eriab kōnnaan, ak l̗ōmn̗ake juon am̗ iien jam̗bo n̄an Ujae em amen mejam̗.

Join In

Rise from One Island To Another:

From the Marshall Islands to Greenland, watch this breathtaking short film about poetic resilience in the face of the climate crisis.

Watch the film in full and, read more about this project. 


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