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Janice Cantieri

losing-paradise.com

Janice Cantieri is a journalist and researcher from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who will be documenting the stories of displacement and adaptation between the Pacific Island nations of Kiribati and Fiji. She will follow the stories of the Banaban Islanders, residents of a phosphate island in Kiribati, who were displaced to Rabi Island in Fiji by the British Phosphate Commission in 1945 and have been separated from their ancestral homeland for the past seventy years. She will also follow the stories of i-Kiribati on the Tarawa Atoll, who are currently facing the possibility of migration and displacement to Fiji and elsewhere in the Pacific as the sea level continues to rise and inundate the low-lying islands, which are only 2-3 meters above sea level. She will be telling the stories of the Kiribati people, their culture and heritage, while also documenting the adaptations, challenges, and innovations they have developed in response to the changes they have faced using a combination of written stories, images, and video.

Life in a Harsh Paradise: Surviving Drought on Banaba Island

Drought is a way of life on Banaba—a way of life Taboree Biremon knows all too well. “My wife and I didn’t eat. We fed the children,” explained Biremon, describing life during a drought that hit Banaba a few years back. “There was no food. We fed the children first, but we were starving. We…

Rising Sea Threatens Traditional Leadership in Kiribati

Surviving on an isolated, infertile island is tough—but managing the scarce resources needed for thousands of families to survive on that island is an even greater challenge. The people of Kiribati have done so for centuries through the village maneaba, the consensus-based village leadership system. This is where the council of elders, te unimane, meet…

Journey Into Te Bangabanga: The Sacred Caves of Banaba Island

The morning was still dark when the young men arrived with their machetes and flashlights. We were on one of the most remote islands in the world, about to venture into an underground network of sacred caves known as te bangabanga. The land below the surface of Banaba, a Pacific island nearly 200 miles from…

Living on a Tropical Island—and an Asbestos Wasteland

BANABA ISLAND, Kiribati—Asbestos dust covers the floors of Banaba’s crumbling colonial houses, buildings, and schools. It’s in the field where people plant cassava. Broken pieces of asbestos sheeting litter the ground, and children use them to make toys and skateboards. All of this in an environment already littered with scrap metal, industrial waste, and oil…

Notes from the Field: Reporting on ‘Island Time’

After three dizzying days at sea, I was relieved to step off the boat in Tarawa, Kiribati. I’d just spent six weeks on the remote Pacific island of Banaba–a place so isolated that currently there is no phone, internet, or mail service. Being off the grid for more than a month was difficult for me,…

When Supporting Your Family Means Losing Your History: A Banaban Elder Reflects

Uma Village, Rabi Island, Fiji—As a Banaban village elder, or te unimane, Tekia Kaitarawa’s neighbors look to him for advice, leadership, and cultural knowledge. But Kaitarawa doesn’t feel up to the role. “They refer to me as an unimane within the village, but I still feel that I am not secure with my knowledge of…

A History of Displacement, Remembered in Dance

Author’s Disclosure: While interviewing the former leader of the Banaban Dancing Group, Maraki Kokoria, he explained that he had tried to organize a special reunion performance of the group for an event commemorating the Banaban displacement on Fiji’s Rabi Island, but found he could not afford to pay for the dancers’ transportation to the event…

Capturing I-Kiribati Resilience ‘Before It’s Too Late’

For most of Lulu DeBoer’s life, the Kiribati islands existed only in dreams and in the stories she heard from her mother. DeBoer, 24, was raised in Texas, almost 6,000 miles away from the tiny Pacific island nation where her mother was born. Growing up, Kiribati “was always a mystery,” she said. “It just sounded…

Shoreline Creeps Closer To Kiribati’s Sacred Sites

“If, one day, the waves take away these sacred places and they’re gone, we will keep on telling the stories,” explained Takirua Tiare, a traditional storyteller on Kiribati’s Marakei Island. “But I can’t stop that—I don’t hold the answer of the waves.”  As a taani karaki, as the storytellers are known, Tiare, 68, is in charge…

Kiribati’s Tides Threaten the Link Between Land and Memory

“When I look at that place, I remember my wife. Now the waves are washing it all away.” As Itiaake Teuria talks, his eyes well with tears. “It’s sad if you see where we used to live. Now you can only see the ocean and the beach.” Teuria’s wife passed away this year of natural…

Coconuts and Co-Ops: Preserving Culture in a Kiribati Village

“This helps us. It doesn’t meet all of our expenses, but still, it helps,” smiles Tiitika Iita, as we sip water mixed with his homemade kamwaimai, a sweet coconut syrup. “We have a son in preschool, and this helps us provide for his books, pens, and other expenses.” Iita, 20, and his wife, Utireta Tebou, 21, live…

Rising Tides Can’t Stop the Dancing in Kiribati

When I walked into Tarawa Island’s only air-conditioned coffee shop I was expecting to escape the 90° F heat, enjoy an iced coffee, and—if the Internet signal was strong enough—send an email. Instead I found myself face-to-face with the president of Kiribati. That chance encounter soon turned into a three-day journey to President Anote Tong’s…

Our Heart Is on Banaba: Stories From “The Forgotten People of the Pacific”

“Our heart is in Banaba, not in Fiji,” Burentau Tabunawati explained, sitting cross-legged in his home in the Fiji capital, Suva City. “I am 76 years old, but still, in my mind and in my heart, I am on Ocean Island.” Tabunawati was born on Banaba, also known as Ocean Island, a coral island once…

Losing Paradise: Stories of Adaptation and Displacement Between Kiribati and Fiji

I took this picture last summer, while I was living in a village on Tarawa, the capital island of the tiny Pacific nation of Kiribati. The children are playing and enjoying themselves in the cool water that separates the two villages of Tanaea and Buota, on the northern side of the Tarawa atoll. This island…