Visualizing Banaba: Art and Research about a Diffracted Pacific Island

Katerina Martina Teaiwa

My book, Consuming Ocean Island: Stories of People and Phosphate from Banaba, about the impact of British, Australian, and, New Zealand phosphate mining on one of my ancestral homelands, felt like a mission to Mars. Prolonged sitting, writing, reading, rewriting, and editing are static embodied processes unnatural to human design. And while I’m so pleased the book has been taken up in several anthropology, history, Pacific studies, and Indigenous studies classrooms, the chapter I love most is the one that reviewers and editors had almost nothing to say about. Titled “Remix: Our Sea of Phosphate,” it consists of textual and visual fragments from books, journal articles, ethnographic film, and archives. Elsewhere, I have written about my interest in Indigenous remix and how apt it is for Banaban lands, choreographies, histories, and displacement. My goal has never been to produce a neat and well-synthesized master narrative of what happened to Banaba, also known as Ocean Island, but to appropriately present our two-and-a-half-square-mile (six-square-kilometer) ancestral island that was broken, crushed, dried, bagged, and hauled off in ships “in pieces.” The remixed forms of research and storytelling about Banaba are in line with the multisited, multisensory, empirical, material, social, and political elements marking the interaction and mutual interference between Banaba and twentieth-century British, Australian, and New Zealand colonial, imperial, agricultural, and food security projects.

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Katerina Martina Teaiwa is Associate Professor of Pacific Studies in the School of Culture, History and Language at the Australian National University. She was born and raised in Fiji and is of Banaban, I-Kiribati and African American descent. She is author of Consuming Ocean Island: stories of people and phosphate from Banaba.

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