Blood in the Water
Voices from Pacific Island Countries

Blood in the Water

APLN Pacific Islands Creative Competition 2022 Winner

Women Category


Blood in the Water

By Dorell Ben

1. Blood

The blood between our thighs

Spilled onto stolen land, stolen oceans,

stolen children

The blood of our ancestors

On our knuckles

Spilled from cut skin

Poured from tattoos

The blood that is stolen

Is blood in the water

2. Ocean

Blackbirding, Girmit, Slavery

Oceans that transcended

Carrying hopes and mana, cultural exchanges

Oceans that feed, nourish, thrive

There is blood in the water

3. River

Angry at monsoons

Filled with hate: Plastic and Politics

Rising to cleanse the land

Currents that seep out into the ocean

Taking with it

Blood in the water

4. Tears

The ancestors weep, the deities weep,

our people weep

The tears that fall are bleak and weak

Exhausted by the pace

Berated by the unsustainable change

To mourn the death of many

There is blood in the water

5. Water

Pure, Bottled, Wasted, Wanted


But …

There is blood in the water



The series was borne on two concepts. The first was invoked by paper weaving; signaling the innocence of paper in art, and a Pacific artform that manifests within different mediums, such as textiles. The second was inspired from the many issues surrounding our Pacific Ocean, from the lack of drinking water, water-cuts, water pollution, people literally shedding blood to protect our oceans, the cultural mana besought of our Oceanic women through menstruation, and the release of a colonial identity through receiving tattoos.

“Blood in the Water” is open to so many interpretations considering our climate issues, and the constant battles to return sovereignty to our Indigenous people. The series is also painted with watercolours and are labelled accordingly to the types of waters: 1. Blood; 2. Ocean; 3. River; 4. Tears; and 5. Water.


About the Competition Winner

Dorell Ben is a Gujarati-Rotuman woman from Fiji. Ben’s art and research is the reawakening of women’s Oceanic cultural tattoo practices, the liminality of tattoo motifs that transcend time and space, and establishing the significance of Indigenous Knowledge Systems as responses to lingering colonial narratives within the contemporary. Ben’s interests are in literatures and the renaissances of Pacific women’s cultural tattoo art. She focuses on the ways women approach tattoo to reclaim Pacific cultural identities and empower other Pacific women through art.


Thumbnail image: The world at night over the equatorial Pacific Ocean, taken from the International Space Station. NASA.