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June 24, 2024

The Channon remembers Fukushima

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Adarsha on the koto. Photo Harsha Prabhu
Adarsha on the koto. Photo Harsha Prabhu

Harsha Prabhu

The haunting notes of a Native American love flute, played by Hiroshima artist Chikara Sueda, hovered in the air at the community gathering to express solidarity with the people of Fukushima at the Channon market on Sunday.

This was followed by local artist Adarsha on the koto. She played a traditional tune called Midare, by the blind koto master Yatsuhashi Kengyo. ‘Midare’ means ‘disarray’. The master was commenting on 17th century Japan and intrigues at the imperial Edo court. His melody reached across the centuries to touch upon the scandal of the Fukushima Daichi nuclear reactors, spewing radioactivity into the ocean, land and air six years on with no end in sight.

Speakers at the gathering expressed anguish and anger at the situation in Fukushima and called for an international initiative to resolve the crisis.

Activists pointed out that Fukushima was not just a Japanese problem; Australian uranium was used in the reactors in Fukushima, mined against the wishes of the traditional custodians of the land.

The war against first peoples had been waged for a thousand years – its current phase perpetrators were the corporate state and the military industrial complex, in which the nuclear industry played a key role.

The nuclear energy cycle ended with nuclear waste and nuclear weapons. The slow poisoning of the earth via fossil fuels and chemicals had led us to a radioactive nightmare from which we were trying to awaken.

Belly dancing by the Barefoot Gypsies. Photo Harsha Prabhu
Belly dancing by the Barefoot Gypsies. Photo Harsha Prabhu

Anguish and anger

Activists hoped that the people’s anguish and anger would be transformed to global action as radiation did not respect boundaries. People were beginning to realise that all forms of pollution and especially radiation, were trans-national issues.

‘From the fisherfolk of South India fighting to stop a nuclear power station to the First Nations in the US fighting the Dakota pipeline, people are rising to protect the land, water and earth. They may have the guns but we have the numbers,’ said one speaker.

Longtime activist Chibo Mertineit spoke of the anti-nuclear movement in West Germany in the seventies, of police firing on demonstrators in the cold and rain, of fish dying up river in Hamburg from chemical runoff. The fight against the nuclear industry was a long and hard one. Everyone need to realise it was in everyone’s interest to unite to fight for a safe world.

Fukishima families in fear

Activist and actress Saya Minami spoke about the children and mothers of Fukushima, about the difficulty of finding food that was safe from contamination. The situation in Fukushima was depressing. No one wanted to talk about it, people were afraid, confused.

The Japanese government was telling everybody that Fukushima was safe, that the food and water was safe. She expressed gratitude at living in the rainbow region, blessed with clean air, water and food and her anguish over the fact that the people of Fukushima could not experience the same contamination-free existence. She hoped to make the Fukushima gathering a yearly event.

The smoking ceremony. Photo Harsha Prabhu
The smoking ceremony. Photo Harsha Prabhu

Traditional custodians

Nimbin traditional custodian Cecil Roberts said: ‘ The Barrier Reef is gone; our forests are gone; they take uranium when they should leave it in the ground. We are looking to save the world for our jarjums (children)’.

Bunjalung songman Lewis Walker said: ‘ My mum’s from the ocean, my father is a mountain man. Many rivers flow through our land. All people are connected. We are one big nation, one rainbow tribe.’

The custodians performed a smoking ceremony, inviting all to ‘ heal ourselves and heal the earth, as we are the same as the planet.’ Hundreds circled round the sacred fire of eucalyptus and tea tree leaves, aided by the sound of didgeridoo and clap sticks.

Drum Up

Then it was time for the Big Drum Up for Fukushima and the awesome power and magic of the drum and dance circle: pounding duns and bass drums; hypnotic polyrhythms from jembes, darambukas, timbales; crazy sonic soundscapes from chimes, bells, cymbals, singing bowls and every percussion instrument ever invented (one man with an orchestra of cups, saucers and spoons); jubilant flutes, trumpets and horns; all arrayed in a semicircle around a heaving, sineous mass of snake-dancing bodies, all silhouetted by the rainbow canopy of the chai tent.

Benny Zable and friend. Photo Harsha Pra
Benny Zable and friend. Photo Harsha Pra

Artist and activist

In the thick of this rainbow riot of beauty and craziness zigzagged Benny Zable. Benny is an ‘artivist’, an environmental artist and activist who’s gnomic presence has enlivened many an action and gathering: from the Nimbin Aquarius Festival of 1973 to the Franklin, from Lizard’s Revenge to Occupy Wall Street. Benny always gets everywhere early to set up his banners and his rainbow flags that have now become iconic. His energy seems inexhaustible, yet always centred, focussed: one minute dancing with rainbow flags, the next atop his installation of toxic barrels, a silent, masked sentinel witnessing the shenanigans at his feet, a reminder of our common fate, a wake up call.


Earlier in the day punters were served a smorgasbord of music and entertainment. Irish tourbador William McElroy, with Phil Levy and Guy Madigan, sang of sweet rain; Bo Kaan spun stories about the ‘chemicological mind’ and the silent war against the earth and all people (‘They fear our unity’ Bo sang); Nimbin psychedelic band Pagan Love Cult’s Neil Pike and Peter Pix sang of peacocks and dancing children (‘Dance children dance, don’t you ever stop trying’ sang Neil, Nimbin’s pied piper. Neil and Peter are died-in-the-wool hippies who are veterans of the Terania rainforest action in 1979); Nimbin duo Biskit and Doug wove a languorous spell; young Byron outfit Entropixx, with Reuben Barkley and friends, were hypnotic; ending with the samba and bossa vibe of Byron’s new Latin band Passando. A sizzling tribal belly dance by the Barefoot Gypsies to Bhangra and Irish grooves was the icing on the cake.

We left at dusk. Songman Lewis Walker began sharing lore, round a fire, surrounded by a circle of ardent listeners, their faces aglow in the firelight. It was a timeless tableau. The moonlight cast a silent web of quicksilver connection, weaving stories of an ancient people who had survived a genocide and lived to tell the tale.

$1500 was collected at Mullumbimby Drill Hall and the Channon market for a Fukushima citizen’s network


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  1. In memory of the lives lost in the Fukushima death and destruction when the suzarmi struck the nuclear plant and its town and the on-going destruction of radioactivity in the ocean, locals gathered at the Channon market last Sunday to hear the haunting notes of a Native American love flute, by Hiroshima artist Chikara Sueda. The notes hovered in the still air.


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