Whether you agree that climate change is happening or not, there’s no doubt that Poruma Island – smack bang between Australia and PNG in the Torres Strait – is sinking.
Barely two kilometres long and with a single runway taking up half the landmass, you would be forgiven for having never seen Poruma Island on a map before: it is as isolated as you can get, and is home to just 180 residents.
International institution, Townsville’s Dancenorth, is out to include Poruma’s population in the global community with the launch of their 360 Letters project, which will see every resident of the island exchange a letter with a stranger in Townsville. Dancenorth Artistic Director Kyle Page said the project was something he hoped would foster continued conversation between the two communities.
“I love the idea that this exchange could be the catalyst for a more ongoing exchange between our two communities. The letters we have received thus far really outline the importance of storytelling and communication: in the age of text messages and twitter, to sit and write a letter to someone you don’t know, sharing ideas, hopes and dreams for the future is a beautiful thing,” said Kyle.
“I love the idea that we are all innately connected and it is only through learned behaviour that we create divides – we are taught to notice difference and often see it as a negative rather than something to be celebrated. With this in mind I wanted to connect people through story – there is no face attached to the story, no age, no religion, no geographical barrier, we are simply people sharing stories with other people … We come together as strangers, and leave as friends.”
“I have always had an aversion to the idea of box ticking when engaging with community projects. When I took on the role of Artistic Director of Dancenorth I wanted to find partners who were interested in developing long-term, meaningful relationships.
“The Chair of Dancenorth’s board, Jan Pool does some amazing work in the Torres Strait and connected us with Poruma Island Community. The Councillor at the time, Phillemon Mosby, is incredibly passionate about Culture and the preservation of traditional language, song and dance. From the first moment I set foot on the Island I knew we had found the right partner to invest in a deeply rich and sincere exchange.”
Dancenorth’s partnership with Poruma Island will not stop at the 360 Letters project – the Island’s Urab Dancers will join Dancenorth’s to perform a collaborative piece, titled Tectonic, at this year’s Strand Ephemera.
“All of the Urab dancers have written a letter – there are only 180 people living on Poruma Island so everyone in the community has written a letter to someone here on the mainland. What a wonderful moment it will be to meet the person you have shared a letter with in the flesh – some of the letters are really quite moving so to have the opportunity to look the writer in the eye and say hello will be incredibly powerful!”
Tectonic will see Dancenorth performers join with 26 Poruma Island dancers (almost 15 per cent of the Island’s population!) on the beach beside the Rockpool, interacting with 180 fit balls buried in the sand.
The letters in the exchange should contain at least two of the following: a story about the weather and what climate change means to you; a story about something important to you, such as a secret, a hope, or a dream; and pictures or images you’d like to share.
Submit your letters to firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible to be involved in the 360 Letters project. Catch Dancenorth and Poruma Island’s collaboration Tectonic beside the Rockpool from 28 July with performance times available here.