Water Stories: Elemental Connections


Water is one of our most precious resources, it’s the vital element that sustains all life on Earth. During ‘Water’ we explore its various forms — oceans, lakes, rivers, and rain — and aim to spark conversations about the environmental and social challenges we face today. To present this exhibition, QAGOMA has partnered with HSBC, whose Water Programme has changed lives across the world.


Since launching its global Water Programme in 2012 to provide and protect water sources and the ecosystems they support, HSBC has extended its support as Principal Partner to QAGOMA’s summer exhibition. HSBC has always had a very strong commitment to sustainability, and ‘Water’ allows visitors to reflect on the value of our natural resources and explore their relationship with the world and the role they play for future generations.

An Artist story

‘Water’ artist Angela Tiatia is concerned about her environment, her videos in the exhibition explore climate change, sustainability, and ultimately the vulnerability of the communities who live precariously near the ocean.

Holding On is a performance video Angela Tiatia created in 2015 on Funafuti, the main atoll of Tuvalu, in the South Pacific. The work shows the artist lying prostrate on a cement slab as the ocean laps at and washes over her. Currently, atolls such as those comprising Tuvalu are only two metres above sea level and escalating tidal flows are gradually submerging them.

Tiatia patiently submits to the ocean she was raised to honour, growing up on the island of Savai’i in Samoa. As surges threaten to sweep her away, Tiatia re-secures her hold and her body forms a T-shape reminiscent of crucifixion, perhaps hinting at ideas of punishment or redemption.

Angela Tiatia, Aotearoa New Zealand/ Samoa/ Australia b.1973 / Holding On (still) 2015 /12 minutes, 11 seconds. Single-channel high definition video; 16:9, colour, sound, 12:11 minutes / Courtesy: The artist and Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney / © Angela Tiatia

In the three-channel video Tuvalu 2016, Tiatia explores [the] connection to and the vulnerability of the communities who live precariously near the ocean. As poetic scenes of daily life play out across the screens, water crashes, sloshes, bubbles and seeps over and through the ground, consuming roads, gardens, backyards, playing fields, and people’s livelihoods. At the end of the work, a ball rises into the air in a wide arc before falling back to Earth. High above, the sun travels another arc behind clouds, grey and filled with water. The artist explains:

The global projections used to describe climate change can seem abstract and distant. However, on Tuvalu climate change is experienced on an immediate and human scale … This work is a lament to what we are losing.1

1 Angela Tiatia, artist statement, <https://vimeo.com/166296843>, viewed 12 June 2019.

Angela Tiatia, New Zealand/Samoa/Australia b.1973 / Tuvalu (still) 2016 / Three-channel high definition video: 16:9, colour, sound, 20:32 minutes / Courtesy: The artist and Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney / © Angela Tiatia

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Feature image detail: Angela Tiatia Holding On (still) 2015

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