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Tongan songwriter inspires world representatives at Our Ocean conference

Tuesday 19 April 2022 | Written by RNZ | Published in Pacific Islands, Regional

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Tongan songwriter inspires world representatives at Our Ocean conference
Mia Kami, speaking at the Our Ocean conference in Palau Photo: US State Department.

"If we fail to protect our oceans, we are failing to preserve our people, our culture, our identity," according to Mia Kami, a Tongan storyteller and songwriter.

Kami delivered this compelling message via word and song at last week's One Ocean conference in Palau.

The 7th Our Ocean conference brought together scientists, civil society groups, and representatives from both the private sector and world governments, including the US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry.

Based in Suva, Fiji, Kami studied Law and Politics at the University of the South Pacific. However, her passion lies in raising awareness about gender equality, indigenous sovereignty, and climate change in the Pacific region. She expresses these passions through songwriting and music. Kami believes that art is the most powerful form of storytelling and one that connects Pacific and Indigenous people to their ancestors and descendants.

She spoke to the conference assembly about the necessity to protect the ocean from climate change; that failing to protect the ocean is failing to protect the future. As well as her heartfelt words Kami performed her song "Rooted" live, accompanied by a music video that featured people from around the Pacific Region, in order to put a face to those who are most affected by climate change.

Kami said of her performance:

"It was an honour for me, knowing what I was able to put out on stage was it came across well enough for people to stop and have conversations….

When we were doing the video itself, one of the biggest goals for me was that I wanted to make sure that it wasn't Polycentric or that it wasn't Melanesian-centric because realistically, a lot of the representation that we see for the Pacific, centres around Polynesia and Melanesia as well, and so I thought it was important that we were able to recognise that Micronesia is there too.

Mia Kami inspired many young people following her moving speech and song at the Our Ocean conference in Palau
Mia Kami inspired many young people following her moving speech and song at the Our Ocean conference in Palau Photo: RNZ Pacific

I'm glad that that came through because that was part of the vision.

I wanted to show that we are not this separation of our subregions, all of us exist in this space in this ocean and we are all connected because of the ocean."

The performance received a standing ovation from the audience, including Special Presidential Envoy John Kerry.

RNZ Pacific's manager Moera Tuilaepa-Taylor was in Palau for the Our Ocean conference. Her trip was made possible by the US State Department.