Renowned choreographer Ghenoa Gela draws inspiration from the frontline warriors of climate change, particularly the Torres Strait 8, to create a powerful and evocative work titled “Gurr Era Op.” Born in Rockhampton but with deep roots in the Torres Strait Islands, Gela’s latest production is a poignant response to the dangers posed by rising seas to the unique cultural heritage of the Torres Strait. Climate warriors inspire choreographer’s new work
The Torres Strait 8, a climate action group, captured Gela’s attention with their human rights complaint against the Australian government’s inadequate response to climate change, which they brought to the United Nations. Witnessing their call to action and determination to address the struggles faced by the Torres Strait Islanders, Gela felt compelled to contribute in her own way.
“As sea levels continue to rise, Torres Strait Islanders are at risk of losing their culture and island homes,” Gela emphasized. With a background deeply rooted in cultural dance since the age of three, Gela recognizes the power of art as her means of expression and advocacy.
“I feel like art is the only way I have the power to say something,” she remarked.
Gurr Era Op, translating to “the face of the sea” in the Meriam Mir language, serves as a poignant narrative surrounding the journey of four mainland-born Torres Strait Islander women. The production confronts the imminent threats posed by climate change to their home, culture, and identity.
The rising tides become a symbolic timer for Gela, who reflects on the significance of visiting her traditional homelands. “Right now I can go to that place, but I don’t know if my nephews can get to that place, and I don’t know if their own kids can get there,” she expressed.
The production sheds light on the enduring impact of rising seas on the Torres Strait Islands. “Our islands, when the water covers them, that’s forever,” Gela explained. “There’s no receding water, and that is the most horrifying thing for me since there’s no going back.
“Premiering at the Sydney Festival from January 13-19, Gurr Era Op is poised to be a powerful testament to the urgent need for climate action and the preservation of the Torres Strait Islanders’ rich cultural heritage. Ghenoa Gela’s artistic response serves as a rallying cry, calling attention to the irreversible consequences of climate change on these island communities.
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