Kenya: U.S. Artiste Holds Global Warming Awareness Challenge in Kwale

Flood in Belet Weyne Somalia
11 November 2019

When residents of Bodo village in Kwale County, saw water rising and heading for their houses, they ran for their lives.

Fearing for the disaster that would follow, many others ran to the mosque to pray.

It was in 2012 that this phenomenon happened for the first time so residents have kept the account.

Hamza Omar Hassan, a fisherman born in Bodo, said the water that once was almost 500 metres away, nearly submerged the entire village.

"I had gone fishing with my friends when I realised the volume in the ocean had immensely increased. Reality dawned when we went to the shore and found that the water had moved much more onto the land than usual," he narrated.

He recounted the chaos that characterised a day when he rushed to the mosque to find it full of people praying.


Today, little known Bodo promises to draw global attention for its participation in the ongoing campaign for awareness on global warming.

Mr Omar andother villagers participated in a challenge alongside Sarah Cameron Sunde, a New York-based theatre artiste, in a bid to create awareness on climate change and the rising sea levels.

Ms Sunde stood in the water for 12 hours and 7 minutes from 8.10am on the morning of November 9 while shooting 3.65/a durational performance with the sea; a time-based project spanning years and several continents.

"Climate change has great effects felt majorly in coastal areas with the rising waters. Coastal areas around the world remain at risk of being submerged because of the melting glaciers," she said,

Several nations, including Kenya, have recently come together to fight climate change.

The United States, where Ms Sunde is a citizen, holds a controversial standing on the matter as President Donald Trump officially announced its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate mitigation ahead of COP 25 to be held in Spain on December 2 -13.


In Kenya, the iconic Fort Jesus Museum, one of the major tourist attraction sites, is among the areas greatly affected by the sea levels.

It was in danger of being submerged until a wall was built to protect it.

Ms Sunde's mission, seen through her other films, is to create awareness of the effect of climate change and particularly the dangerously rising sea levels.

A move that was awakened by Hurricane Sandy, a storm that hit New York city in 2012 killing 53 people and leaving property destroyed.

Her Bodo performance attracted tens of villagers and children who stood by the shore and watched her stand up to the rising waters from sunrise to sunset.

Villagers joined her in the water at intervals to support her quest.

At the sixth hour when the tide was as its climax, it was awe-inspiring to see Ms Sunde's body almost completely covered by water. By 1pm, only her head was above water.

But as that happened, she remained adamantly in her position, her red pullover and a sisal hat facing Funzi Island, seen through the narrow spaces between mangrove forests.


Many of the people who watched Ms Sunde wondered aloud how she stood for that long without moving or suffocating.

Hours later, the water levels steadily lowered, falling to her neck before dropping to her shoulders. By dusk, the water had reduced to her feet revealing her body.

A whistle was blown at 8.17 p.m. marking the end of the cycle and Ms Sunde was led out of the water.

A local production company was contracted to film the performance which will be edited and screened for the first time at Fort Jesus Museum.

Ms Sunde has staged similar performances in cities around the world and chose Kenya for her performance in Africa.

Her belief is that the world will soon adapt to new ways of living that may save the environment.

Ms Sunde's next shooting will be in New York in 2020. She hopes to change perceptions about global warming in the places she performs and to demonstrate the role artistes can plan in achieving this goal.

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