Tag Archives: volcano

The Arts of Survival

Creativity can give us options. Creativity can give us something to fight for. And creativity can help us recover from the worst when it happens. Like in 2010, when Mt. Merapi erupted in Indonesia, monsoon rains flooded the Indus river in Pakistan, and a 7.0 magnitude earthquake shook Haiti to it’s core. Or in 2005, after Hurricane Katrina.

Across all four regions and cultures survivors turned to art to reclaim their homes. In 2011 some of that art was featured in an exhibit called The Arts of Survival: Folk Expression in the Face of Disaster at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

“The Arts of Survival provides a window to the many ways contemporary folk artists use what they know best to respond to natural disaster with vision, perseverance, dignity and imagination-even in the midst of political infighting, infrastructural log jams, and environmental after affects. Through this experience, they learn that the most fundamental power is the indomitable spirit of mankind.”  — Exhibition curator Dr. Suzanne Seriff

In Indonesia, master makers created shadow puppets representing the volcano with fire and ash spewing from it to memorialize the story.

In Pakistan local craftswomen took to needle and thread, creating ralli purrs (quilt tops) from excess clothing from relief efforts into much needed blankets, both for warmth and to raise funds for rebuilding.

In Haiti, street artists pulled scrap metal from the wreckage, transforming it into sculptures depicting the terror they had experienced. Others stitched Vodou Flags or crafted terrifying papier-mâché masks.

Evelyne Alcide, Earthquake!
Evelyne Alcide, “Earthquake!”


In New Orleans, they painted poems on the sides of broken houses, stitched quilted memorials from moldy bedsheets pulled from drowned buildings. One built an entire village from broken furniture, old chain link fencing, and other salvaged materials.

When asked  why, one artist answered:

“My reason for making this is to bring together the human family, so we can get together and rebuild New Orleans, so we can rebuild ourselves and our soul.” Joe Minter

Joe Minter, Rebuild and Restore New Orleans
Joe Minter, “Rebuild and Restore New Orleans,” 2007, mixed media. Photo: Paul Smutko


Pele Visits Pohoa

Threatened by lava flowing uncharacteristically south east from the Kilauea volcano, most residents of the small Hawaiian town of Pahoa have been forced to evacuate. The lava flow has already consumed the local cemetery and is threatening the road that leads in and out of the area. According to the Hawaii County Civil Defense Director, residents will be allowed to watch as the lava engulfs their homes. Many others who have come to see the lava crawl first hand will be turned away.

At night the red glare was visible a hundred miles at sea; and at a distance of forty miles fine print could be read at midnight…. countless columns of smoke rose up and blended together in a tumbled canopy that hid the heavens and glowed with a ruddy flush reflected from the fires below; here and there jets of lava sprung hundreds of feet into the air and burst into rocket-sprays that returned to earth in a crimson rain…

Mark Twain, Roughing It

For those whose homes or businesses remain, there is a real danger that the roads will not survive, isolating the town from neighboring rural areas that rely on Pohoa businesses for groceries, gasoline, medical services, and other crucial amenities.

Disaster News Update: Japan

Typhoon Roke Approaching Japan
Credit: NASA/GSFC/Jeff Schmaltz/MODIS Land Rapid Response Team https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Japan has been headlining disaster news a great deal of late:

  • September 12, 2014: Mount Ontake erupted killing more than 50 people who had been hiking at the popular tourist spot.
  • October 5, 2014: Typhoon Phanfone made landfall, shutting down Mount Ontake search and rescue operations, canceling 400+ flights, closing schools, triggering mudslides,  and resulting in evacuation advisories for more than 2 million people, power outages to 9,000+ homes, and seven deaths with a number of people still missing.
  • October 7, 2014: Typhoon Vongfong, upgraded this morning to a super typhoon, is forecast to hit Japan this weekend.

And, of course, most of us remember the deadly earthquake/tsunami-fueled disaster at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant on March 11, 2011–the largest nuclear disaster since the April 1986 even at Chernobyl.

In the wake of the Fukushima disaster, Japan shut down all of its nuclear reactors, but recently the Japanese government has approved plans to restart the program, including any reactors that pass strict, new safety tests, along with possible new plants.

While stronger safety criteria are a step in the right direction, Japan has a long history of seismic activity, and the occasionally resulting tsunami, due to it’s location along the highly active Ring of Fire  that surrounds the Pacific. And the intensity and frequency of seismic and other events appear to be increasing. Add to that equation their 118 volcanoes on just over 145, 000 square miles of land, and one has to wonder if any safety measure could be strong enough.