Contemporary art organisations TBA21 and TBA21-Academy have called for the art world to give their support to Tonga after the devastating volcanic eruption there and resulting tsunami.
Donations are encouraged to the fundraiser set up by the Tongan Olympic athlete Pita Taufatofua or via the International Red Cross.
The eruption on 14 January coated the Tongan islands in ash and caused tsunamis around the Pacific. Five fatalities have been reported so far—three in Tonga and two in Peru—with people being injured as far away as the US. The Tongan island of Mango had every home wiped out. There are now long-term fears for the effect of the ash on Tonga’s air, water and soil quality and its impact on farming and fishing.
The volcano previously came to worldwide attention when it erupted in 2009. The lava and ash that were thrown up created a new area of land joining the previously separate uninhabited islands of Hunga Tonga and Hunga Haʻapai.
The Danish artist group Superflex visited this new island in 2018 as part of an expedition organised by TBA21-Academy, along with a team of scientists. They created a 20-minute long film, which features red-clad figures roaming over the pristine, moon-like landscape. The 2022 eruption has destroyed this area, separating the islands again.
Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza, the chair of TBA21, says: "The Tongan people are some of the kindest and warmest people in the world and are already struggling with the effects of climate change. What concerns me immensely apart from the loss of so many homes and livelihoods, Tonga is also home to one of the world's most important calving and mating grounds for the humpback whales, which is the main source [of income] for their tourist economy. What we need now is aid as well as scientific evaluation of the fertile ocean that surrounds this wonderful country. TBA21 is pulling together all the research, resources, and contacts to come up with an efficient aid package to support the Tongan people."
TBA21-Academy was formed in 2011 to foster a deeper relation to the oceans through art and science. They run the Ocean Space venue in Venice and the online research hub Ocean Archive.