Tanna Center for the Arts will be a 6-hectare/14.8-acre off-the-grid artists retreat, cultural preservation and technological education space. Its site is situated on the island of Tanna’s northern up country in the archipelago of Vanuatu.
Our vision is to build an eco-haven using a majority of local materials and talent, engineer it using energy efficient design fueled by renewables, and fortify global understanding of one another and the changes we face together by making art to share with the world in this inspiring place.
Preserve local communities, language & pristine lands through collaborative art & tech projects. Engage Tanna’s youth in applying select mainland technologies that serve island tradition. Invite artistic and inventive exchange with a global art community in a retreat and creative lab at The Center. Create a project that is candid about navigating the competing economic, cultural and ecological aims presently confronting island nations.
To preserve his culture, respected island leader Isso Kapum – son of Chief Jack Kapum of the Naihne Tribe – reached out to Paul D. Miller(aka DJ Spooky) to create opportunities for Tanna’s native population through an artist retreat. This can generate jobs, cultural exchange and, most importantly, training for youth who leave home in search of work. Training in sustainable construction, water & waste management, permaculture, and renewable technologies can offset this loss. These practices have been extinguished from the culture and are needed for the survival of Tanna’s eco-system, currently threatened by status quo, carbon-heavy practices.
Building skillsets for Tanna’s youth that drive a localized, sustainable economy along with international tourism remain key aims expressed by island leaders. Bringing artists who’s work and acclaim can magnify global awareness of both climate and cultural concerns faced by the Tannese is one way Paul feels such aims can be met.
Common Ground on Shrinking Islands
Of Vanuatu’s 83 charted islands, the archipelago’s 243,304 citizens inhabit 65 of them. Issues associated with rising sea levels currently affecting the islands include saltwater intrusion that has severely affected drinking water, food production and export crops. Increased storms, inland flooding and cyclones have already affected coconut harvests and coastal erosion. This increase, along with bleached coral reefs, results in lost tourism revenue that feeds island families.
The ecological impacts of unsustainable development have also brought near-shore overfishing, fish poisoning from waste disposal and deforestation in recent years. A lack of employment opportunities and inaccessibility to markets can lock rural families into subsistence mode, putting tremendous pressure on local ecosystems.
With an economy centered firmly on tourism, contributing 72 per cent of GDP, and agriculture, coconuts make up 31.1 per cent of exports, these losses devastate island society. The late 2005 relocation of an entire coastal village on Tegua Island in northern Vanuatu to higher ground rendered them among the first documented climate change refugees.
As islands lose revenue they also lose inhabitants, culture and languages, forever. According to Vanishing Voices: The Extinction of the World’s Languages, Vanuatu is considered to be the country with the highest density of languages per capita in the world, with an average of about 2,000 speakers for each of the 100 indigenous languages. Some of these languages are endangered, with only a handful of speakers, and several have become extinct in recent times.
Every two weeks a language disappears from Earth forever and with it a completely unique view of reality. This is a natural resource as valuable as fresh water and clean air. It must be preserved as carefully as we would an endangered plant or animal species.
Shared goals of stabilizing climate and preserving cultures render Tanna an ideal location for the project’s aims.
The “Happiest People on Earth” Have Things to Teach
Amid such instability, the NEF Happy Planet Index found the Vanuatuans to be, not just happy, but the happiest people on planet earth in their inaugural research of 2006. The Tannese social bonds and ideas of interdependence are ones that the world needs now.
Our hope is that Tanna becomes a home for global sustainability that remains rooted in Melanesian society.
Anything you contribute will cover the construction of an initial ‘outpost’ on-site, a feasibility assessment and design of the first phase solar electricity systems for one village and three new structures between now and May 2011, when our first invited artists will arrive.
In December, local leadership, DJ Spooky, Engineers Without Borders and the Vanuatu Pacifica Foundation have arranged for R. David Gibbs, a New York-based solar and energy engineer with remote-location experience, to undertake a feasibility study with local renewables engineers, village electricians and tech trainees. The first goal is to replace diesel generators with solar PV and thermal systems that can power villages and initiate the design of the Tanna Center for the Arts’ off-the-grid retreat, cultural preservation and eco-education facility.
You’ve probably noticed we’re starting at $10,000 here on Kickstarter but with $20,000 we can complete the solar design phase, engage local craftspeople to build the initial structure(s) and create an ‘outpost’ that allows us to invite collaborators from around the island and the world to begin realizing this vision. Everybody’s help with a little or a lot is welcome, needed and much appreciated! .
(Please be in touch for specs if you can offer any material donations of PV panels, inverters, marine transport, etc.)
Our non-profit sponsor, Islands First, is working to empower South Pacific island nations to navigate the political entropy impeding climate progress.
Our guides in this project are the people of Tanna and a board of advisers comprised of respected artists, businesspeople, scientists, tribal and global thought leaders. With time, we’ll increase local representation beyond the Naihne people to include broader representation from the archipelago.
By using our collective creativity and media savvy, we hope to create an exchange that empowers islanders to offer their unique cultural perspective as a main export and inspire visiting artists from around the world to impact their own cultures with the beauty emanating from this amazing place.
“Smart People. Smart Island. Smart Cultures. Beautiful World.”
More at www.the-vpf.org