Water*Peace*Power – provocations for engaged conversations

Hui-symposium presentation

Short Description

Which 'powers' profit from New Zealand's dependence on hydroelectricity? Who holds the authority to speak for water? What role might artists play in supporting peaceful relationships with water? In what ways is water more than H20?

Long Description

I have been invited to be a ‘Hui Conversation Leader’ and intend to put forward a series of provocations for consideration, reflection and dialogue. These will navigate around political, environmental, intercultural and sustainability challenges, and then specifically on practices that creative artists might adopt to promote water sustainable practices.

Generic provocations related to the nexus between Water*Peace*Power:

How might creative art practitioners engage in work that proactively advocates alternatives to large-scale hydroelectricity generation to support more peaceful and environmentally sustainable solutions for communities?

If the arts have the ability to invoke in others an appreciation of things as much more than their tangible appearances suggest, what is the potential for the creative arts to play a role in supporting understandings of water as far more than a physical substance or the chemical solution, H20?

In what ways might creative art practitioners engage in efforts to revitalise waterways to protect and enhance mauri (the ‘wellspring’ or lifeforce)?

How might we go about listening and learning from indigenous peoples in their intimate geopolitical interrelationships woven through whakapapa and deeply personal connections to specific waters, such as Te Atihaunui’s relationship with the Whanganui River: ‘Ko au te awa, ko te awa ko au’ – ‘I am the river, the river is me’?

Specific to Intercreate.org and creative art practice: How might Intercreate go about suggesting to artists that they consider the natural materials they use in their work as living resources worthy of their full respect and consideration?

As a sustainability leader in New Zealand’s creative arts practice, should Intercreate propose a guide for how artists might adopt more sustainable water use throughout the entire lifecycle of their creative art process? For example, not flushing away waste products down the sink, minimising or avoiding the use of non-disposable elements in an artwork.


Charlotte Šunde holds a Ph.D. in Resource and Environmental Planning with a focus on cross-cultural ecologies of understanding for environmental practice. Her research is strongly influenced by the intercultural philosopher and theologian, Professor Raimon Panikkar (1918-2010). She has applied Panikkar’s ontonomy of nondualism, ecosophy and sacred secularity to research on environmental cross-cultural relationships, in particular for the Whanganui River (Te Awa Tupua) in Aotearoa New Zealand. Her interests in promoting cultural and spiritual values of water extend to art-science-education public performances (such as ‘fluid city’ for SCANZ 2015). Charlotte works at the University of Auckland, and has previously held appointments at universities in Canada and France. She is currently Research Fellow (Sustainability) at Intercreate.org.

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