The Whau Project – Cathy Livermore

West Auckland-based artist Cathy Livermore (Waitaha, Kati Mamoe, Kai Tahu) created The Whau Project to activate and empower community collaboration across diverse cultures to care for our shared waters of this whenua we collectively call home.

Waiora, life-giving energy carried within waters, is a shared fundamental life principle and need recognized by all traditional cultures. Bringing the memories of wisdoms gathered across time into a flowing conversation today between diverse cultures in West Auckland, The Whau Project is growing a collective community vision for healthy waters in this whenua.

The project began with a process of welcoming and exchange between tangata whenua and migrant peoples with a connection to the Whau area.

In the traditional ways of this whenua, tangata whenua welcomed and embraced the migrating cultures carried from distant lands making their new home here in Aotearoa, and the people became joined. Through the coming together in cultural exchange we experienced the curiosity, fascination and celebration of our diverse cultural traditions and ways in a beautiful flow that reflected back at us our shared humanity, through waters.

Migrant peoples brought their memories, songs and stories, old and new, sharing their traditional knowledge of the ways in which their cultures have held relationship with waters of their land for hundreds and thousands of years. Gathering these treasures of the past that migrants carry with them, through this exchange we were able to acknowledge the ways and wisdoms that enabled our ancestors to survive and thrive in their lands, which in turn has given us the chance to be here alive today.

The best surprise and gift of this process was seeing how much these cultural exchanges and intercultural conversations were filling a huge desire and hunger for migrant peoples and their communities living here in NZ. These cultural conversations with the traditions of tangata whenua provided ways of building relationships that supported their feeling of belonging here to their new homeland.

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