サ-モアのうた (Sāmoa no Uta) A Song About Sāmoa - Tūlī’s Flight (2023) by Yuki Kihara is a tale of supreme endeavour presented as an aerial perspective migratory map of the Pacific Golden Plover’s seasonal journey, reaching from New Zealand through the Pacific including Sāmoa to Alaska and Siberia where it breeds. The genus name Pluvialis means relating to rain, for it was believed the plovers flocked when rain was imminent. It breeds during May to July, migrating south to the Pacific Islands in August and September, staying until April or May. They are site-faithful with each bird returning to the same territory year after year. When juveniles are capable of flight, about 26-28 days after hatching, parent birds leave with females usually departing first. Flocks of juveniles remain, migrating to the Pacific sometimes as late as October or November depending on Arctic weather with first-year birds migrating south solely by instinct. Tūlī forage on tundra, lawns, beaches and tidal flats in a run-stop-peck manner. The population of the tawny-coloured bird is decreasing, due to a global shift in and loss of habitat, as well as significant alterations due to climate change and pollution.
The creation story of Sāmoa has Tagaloa as the supreme God who created nine different heavens, including life and earth, and a series of stepping stone islands scattered across the Pacific. It’s said that Tagaloa saw Tūlī as his favourite pet and messenger and that he provided the islands across the Pacific as places for Tūlī to rest and call home.
The peopling of the Pacific Islands remains an epic story across time. The pictorial role performed by the flight paths in Tūlī’s Flight echoes that of the stick charts from the Marshall Islands once used to navigate back, forth and across. Encapsulating swell and wave patterns, harnessing a deep knowledge of ocean behaviour, those stick charts and Kihara’s metaphoric referencing and use adroitly emphasises the over-riding narrative of the サ-モアのうた (Sāmoa no Uta) A Song About Sāmoa kimono project: that the Pacific is at the forefront of change and is right in the eye of the storm. Directly addressing climate mobility, portable sovereignty and the inequalities of climate change, Kihara also emphasises that the ocean is a major source of food, a conduit for travel and a presence that gives meaning to life in the islands.
Professor James Renwick in ‘Under the Weather’ states that in the Pacific the “ocean surface is a better definition of a country’s space than land is,”1 that very point also encapsulating the interconnectedness of all things: that space and distance links, not divides. Professor Epeli Hau’ofa in a seminal essay “Our Sea of Islands” promulgates that the notion of smallness is relative and determinist, that resources are not confined to or by the artificial nonsense of national and economic boundaries. He argues that Oceania is boundless, that its peoples’ myths, legends, oral traditions and cosmologies conceive of their world in epic proportions; that there is a much broader, optimistic picture of reality in the Pacific than that of hopelessness and powerlessness.2