No longer can I live in peace and harmony.
No longer can I rest on my sleeping mat and pillow
Because of my island and the life I once knew there.
The thought is overwhelming
Rendering me helpless and in great despair.
My spirit leaves, drifting around and far away
Where it becomes caught in a current of immense power -
And only then do I find tranquility
I jab ber emol, aet, i jab ber ainmon
ion kineo im bitu
kin ailon eo ao im melan ko ie
Eber im lok jiktok ikerele
kot iban bok hartu jonan an elap ippa
Ao emotlok rounni im lo ijen ion
ijen ebin joe a eankin
ijen jikin ao emotlok im ber im mad ie
-The Bikinian Anthem (1946) by Lore Kessibuki (1914-1994)
Specifically, I focused on the traumatic history of the Bikinians, a community of about 5,000+ Pacific Islanders, whose homeland in the Bikini Atoll remains radioactive and uninhabited due to years of deadly US nuclear testing.
The Bikinians have lived in exile on the islands of Kili and Ejit in the Marshall Islands for 75 years. Currently, there are only a few remaining Bikinians out of the original 167 who were asked to leave their homeland in 1946 by the US military. The relatively recent emigration to the United States entails yet another significant move away from their ancestral homeland. Their migration was motivated by the ability to live, work, and study in the United States according to the Compact of Free Association. However, as a new immigrant and historically exploited community, the Marshallese American livelihood remains entwined with blue collar work in the poultry industry of Northwest Arkansas.
Pre and post covid-19 pandemic, the successes and struggles of both the Bikinian and general Marshallese population offer a complicated look into what it means to be a part of American society.
I wanted to learn from an adjacent and related ethnic experience, to foster empathy across cultures, and understand who we are as Americans in this new administration and era.
To that end, I saw the use of printing on banana fibre paper to be a visual way connecting my own heritage with the Marshallese experience in that it is a crop endemic to both the Marshall Islands and the Philippines.