Underwater Love – and Death


A global majority dancer moves among fabric fronds. shades of blue, silver, gold.
Alya, Blkdimondance

A long black curtain hides what is behind, but two portholes give a hint. The air is cool and moving; there’s a sense that we are shifting environment as we step in. As our eyes rest in the darkened space, gorgeously patterned long silken fronds dangle before us. They wave and beckon, speaking of fluidity, gentleness, colour and a welcoming, vibrant life. 

Music swells and the body collapsed on the floor begins to draw itself up. Slowly the dancer rises, starts to move. She weaves and swoops among the silken shapes, which sway and twist, caressing her, joining her dance. But as she moves, she encounters a long line of fronds that are still, lifeless, colourless. Bleached and dead. White. Still. At first, she is broken, sorrowful; then angry, energised. She refuses to be crushed. She makes and then dances a placard. She calls for action, for protest; invites us to join her. The soundtrack encourages us to enter the shadowy fronded space with her; more bodies, more voices, add power to the room’s defiant energy. 

Now we are many. On our feet and moving. We dance our human sorrow, shame, regret at what has been done. But also our refusal to allow more of this. Together, we raise a furious, urgent energy while the soundtrack reminds us that this crisis is real and at tipping point, with clips from Barbados PM Mia Amor Mottley’s famous 2021 speech at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) – 

CODE RED! Save lives, save our planet!

We dance our protest at greed, at indifference and at a politics that does not care about all this death – human and nonhuman. 

1.5 is what we need to survive … 2 degrees is a death sentence.

We are moving alongside Alya Abdou Issa – in art, blkdimond – in her piece, ‘Code Red! Code Red!’, to a soundtrack from 7kid, Liam King. 

Today Alya dances for us in person, but a video of this piece continues as part of the multi-media immersive installation ‘Interweaving Spaces, by award-winning artist Gil Mualem-Doron, one of our local coastal residents. Gil tells us about a life lived in several global coastal spaces and marked by the destruction of coral reefs and kelp forests. The textile strips we move among – with 32 individual bespoke patterns – evoke one of these underwater kelp forests, and are printed with designs Gil has produced using inspiration from traditional patterns gathered from coastal communities across the globe.   

As I dance, I give thanks for art that stirs us to action. And for the extraordinary work around Worthing by Steve Allnut – a free diver whose passion and work for restoring Sussex’ seabed and kelp forests, is finally gaining the national support and recognition it always deserved. From 1997 until now, Steve has witnessed underwater withering, sickness and extinction and has been working to counteract the death that augurs our own deaths. Sussex Seabed Restoration was a solo passion project for many years, bringing our coastal waters back to life. Lately, support for the project is beginning to outweigh people’s indifference and scepticism.


As we leave Worthing Museum’s exhibition opening event for Interweaving Spaces, my heart calls me to take on Mottley’s urgent message, 

Try harder!

Published by Caroline

After 30 years as an academic anthropologist doing ethnography in India and the Gulf, Caroline now avoids airports and spends a lot of time walking, cycling or quad skating around for conversations and stories in their adopted home of Worthing. Caroline does public sector consultancy work and project evaluation, using creative research methods. Caroline also writes. Find them on Substack at https://substack.com/@carolineosella. (Yes, there's a WIP and yes, it's a campus novel, but hang on - it's not a memoir, and it's not a thinly-disguised writeup of people and situations. I studied creative writing, trained, practiced and ** made it all up**).

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