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Waimanawa: The Water From Under the Land

Johanna Mechen


The video installation Waimanawa (the Māori word which means water that comes
from under the land) was commissioned for the Lower Hutt City Council-sponsored
Common Ground Hutt Public Art Festival: Groundwater in 2017. A video was
presented on a screen placed on the ground over the proposed location for a public
tap to a newly drilled aquifer bore, with accompanying voiceover.
Waimanawa mines fragments of stories about the Waiwhetu aquifer in
Lower Hutt, those who care for its wellbeing, and the age testing of a new bore.
It presents a poetic microhistory that attempts to negotiate the different groups and
members of this community’s connection to water. The philosophies or approaches
to the guardianship of water which are gleaned from the research are visible
and invisible, spiritual and scientific, and reflect European and Māori world views
in particular. On some points, there is overlap and on others there is conflict.
The thread that is drawn through the video is the connectedness, or lack thereof,
by us as people, to water and how it sustains us physically and emotionally.