Matt Colaciello Postcards from the Bajau People facing Climate Change Extremes

matt colaciello, sampela, bajau water village

Matt Colaciello

Stephen Dare: Matt, how do we describe you and your work?

Matt Colaciello: I'm a cross-cultural digital storyteller. My work brings audiences to the periphery of their world to see that it is the center of someone else’s. I spent 10 years working in West Africa, India, and Indonesia to learn about some of the biggest issues facing our world: climate change, inequity, and fight for human rights. Now I engage change makers all over the world in sharing their insights through telling their stories.
You can find more about Matt at The Global Workshop 
This is the first in a series of travelogue posts from Matt as he returns to Wakatobi National Park to visit with the Bajau people of Indonesia.  Check out the next in the series here

matt colaciello

Matt Colaciello

"I’m on my way to Wakatobi National Park, a protected chain of islands and coral reef in the outer reaches of Indonesia. Wakatobi is home to the world’s second largest barrier reef, after Australia’s, but unless you’re a diving enthusiast or work in marine conservation you’ve probably never heard of it. 

Anthropologist Kelli Swazey and I are going to make a film with local Bajau friends in their village above the sea. 

What they’re saying about the ways that climate change and land-centric politics are affecting their lives will make you wonder why Nat Geo and the BBC never just let the Bajau speak for themselves.

The Bajau people of Southeast Asia are famous for their seafaring way of life and almost superhuman free diving abilities. A National Geographic article about the size of their spleens—an evolutionary adaption to lives spent in the water—went viral earlier this year. But the Bajau people are so much more than what initially meets the eyes and lens. The insight they’ve evolved as people of the sea is at least as interesting as the size of their spleens. And what they’re saying about the ways that climate change and land-centric politics are affecting their lives will make you wonder why Nat Geo and the BBC never just let the Bajau speak for themselves.

Since 2011, I’ve been bringing groups of students to Wakatobi to live with and learn from families in a Bajau village called Sampela. Let me be clear: these are not mission trips. My relationship with my Bajau colleagues is about learning and cultural exchange. Over time, I made friends in the community and began to visit without students. Now, I count some of my friends in Sampela among my closest.

Kelli and I will be working with Bajau couple Andar and Saipa to make a short documentary in which they and their neighbors in Sampela speak for themselves. Their stories of life in close contact with the world’s troubled seas need to be heard. What they say will have implications for us all."

Saipa and her daughter, Atia./Colaciello



Bajau Brothers
Young fishermen from Sampela pull in empty nets./Colaciello
Bajau women sell fish from their boats at a market on the island of Kaledupa./Colaciello
My friend Ahdan, father and fisherman in Wakatobi/Colaciello

Matt Colaciello

Matt Colaciello is on a journey around the world from his Floridian hometown in the United States. He is visiting some of the most exotic and environmentally dependent communities in the world and in the process allowing us to tag along via a set of travelogue posts.

The Colaciello family is a well established node in the cultural lodestone of New York City,  Bob Colacello, his uncle was the editor of Interview Magazine throughout the 80s and a long time special correspondent for Vanity Fair. In fact, just recently, Bob Colaciello made news when he claimed authoritatively that Andy would be dating Kim Kardashian in 2018.

Matt has chosen a wholly different path and in the process created his own wake in the global community of social observers of both climate change and cultural exchanges.

We are wildly honored to be a part of this latest travelogue project.

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Arriving in Sampela

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Stephen Dare

Editor in Chief

Traveller, writer, chef, entrepreneur and natural born gossip. Originally from Jacksonville, Florida, but has lived in the five corners of the US. (Florida, San Francisco, Seattle, NYC and Muncie, Indiana). Big fan of Dorothy Parker, Thorne Smith, Ogden Nash, Quentin Crisp and Graydon Carter. Although not necessarily in that order.

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