Kiribati is a lovely book. First of all, it is a lovely object with an attractive and fascinating cover, printed on beautiful paper and illustrated with elegance and sophistication. It tells an equally beautiful story, a beauty spawned by its very genesis.
Alice Piciocchi and Andrea Angeli set off for Kiribati with the intention of going on a journey that would also be a test of their relationship and of what they would do “when they grew up”. She is a designer and he is an architect, so it could never have been a tourist jaunt. That is not what travelling means to a 30-year-old couple accustomed to using their brains. A tourist jaunt is more about consuming than learning.
So why go to the other side of the world? On a quest for self-discovery? Partly, but primarily to tell the story of a place and a people at risk of being wiped out by climate change.
Their journey was a combination of love, design, sensitivity to topical issues and a work method that at least partially contradicted Lawrence Osborne’s prophetic book, The Naked Tourist, (North Point Press, 2007). Our two also went in search of the exotic but did so in our global and post-colonial world with a sense of commitment that has given rise to a new literary genre. Part anthropology and part graphic novel, it ends up being a light-hearted but serious ethnographic tale.
They returned home weighed down with materials that included handwritten notes, photographs and videos, sketches, online searches, contacts with local bodies, official documents, archive searches and human relationships. Before setting off, they had thought about producing a video work but afterwards realised that what they possessed were actually notes. Processing the whole called for a different form of communication and they decided on the book, a paper one.
This book could be read by an eight-year-old or an adult, the level of enjoyment would be exactly the same. The authors are just sorry that no English-language publisher has yet been found as an English version would be just repayment to the people of Kiribati who welcomed them and are almost unknowingly on a path to extinction.