Note from Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, poet and director of Jo-Jikum
“We are now that danger they should fear/our voices being heard/words that are inspiring /with bravery that glows/but never fades.” These are the powerful lines from a poem written by Cindy Digno, a fourteen year old high school student who wrote about skin bleaching, coral bleaching, and the power of her story and her voice to fight against these issues. These lines were written during the first Climate Change Arts Camp facilitated by our organization, Jodrikdrik in Jipan̄ Ene Eo Ekutok Maroro or Jo-Jikum, in collaboration with the College of the Marshall Islands and the Youth Services Bureau from the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
Cindy’s poem was one of six performances from the spoken word workshop held during the camp. The camp, funded through a grant from the US Embassy, catered mostly towards high school students (with two exceptions for high school graduates and one eighth grader), allowed youth to choose between either learning more about how to paint a mural or how to craft a spoken word piece, while using environmental issues as their inspiration.
The first three days were spent in workshops outlining environmental injustices such as climate change, waste and pollution, and coral bleaching. It also incorporated traditional weaving, with presentations from non-profits such as Juran Ae and the University of South Pacific Jaki-Ed program, who not only gave tutorials on basic weaving, but also discussed traditional weaving motifs, and the ways in which environmental issues such as the drought, have impacted them as well. The last two days were spent in intensive art workshops, where students were taught how to use the inspiration they received from the previous workshops to incorporate it into their art work.
The entire camp ended with Performance and Art Showcase, in which students shared their art with their family and friends.
Overall, it was an amazing experience for, one that provided many lessons and has opened up new possibilities for collaboration and ideas for a bigger, more intensive arts camp.