The Elephant in the Room
Voices from Pacific Island Countries

The Elephant in the Room

APLN Pacific Islands Creative Competition 2022 Winner

Survivor Category


The Elephant in the Room

By Mere Tuilau


Swallowing my mixed em(Ocean),

I stood up and said

Excuse me, I need some air.

With thoughts rushing,

Anger rizing,

Feet rushing,

Soul hurting,

Face blushing,

Heartbeat accelerating,

I burst into tears on my way through the hallways

and into the bathroom to hide myself …

in the name of “diplomacy”


What is relationship without principles?

Without it’s values?

What is history without evidence ?

What are humans without feelings ?

What is hurt without it’s wound?

What are lessons without learning?

What are we, without each other?


How can we look at Britain, France and the US in the eye and have historical amnesia?

Or how can the devil’s empire look at us in the eye and say “For the Good of Mankind”?


Thoughts of my ancestors crying,

Mother screaming in the delivery room

Sisters dying

Fathers blind

Brothers displaced

My family in crisis

My emOcean drowning




Not him, not her, not them, but us.

US who carries the weight,

the burden of proof,

To prove the suffering,

the biggest aggression of our lives.




Where our tears and sacrifices are being politicized

Where Love is being tested

Where hearing is being tested

Where humanity is being tested




Hear us in our rawest self.

Hear us to hear our ancestors cry freely

Hear us to let our generation live freely

A future where we can dream freely

Na numa noqu Waitui.


We look back to look forward

We look back to pause

We look back to set sail


The Ocean creates lives

The Ocean hubs lives

And the Ocean is live

Protect our Waitui.


“Art is in the eye of the behold” ~Margaret Wolfe Hungerford

(The artists would like to keep the art piece open to interpretation.)

Artwork by: yDISARM Pacific – ICAN New Zealand



At one of the conferences I attended, I was asked not to address “the elephant in the room” in the name of “diplomacy.” So I named this piece “The elephant in the room.”


About the Competition Winner

Mere Tuilau is a rights activist, facilitator and a youth leader from Fiji. Her advocacy on self-determination, nuclear and ocean spaces comes from over seven years of lived experience of engagement with Pacific youths and within regional civil society organisations and movements. Mere’s passion is in supporting and encouraging young people as stewards of the vast Pacific Ocean, a testament of the call to safeguard, guide and determine their destiny, and to navigate their narratives until the people of Oceania are fully free.


Thumbnail image: “Climate Elephant” by Daniel Dancer,