The Water Project

The Water Project | Main Gallery
24 November 2018 – 24 March 2019

Me kī, he waiata aroha tēnei mō ngā tangi o te whenua
Let us say that this is a song of love for the sounds of the land

For centuries, water was a revered resource in Aotearoa. Fresh water was fundamental to the spiritual, cultural and economic lives of tangata whenua. Colonial settlers had other priorities and used waterways as conduits for waste from saw-milling, mining, and industry. Rivers flowing through towns became open sewers and the impact of deforestation was ignored.

Apart from some notable exceptions, up until recent times, waterways were, by and large, taken for granted by the general public. Now, in an era of ramped-up environmental degradation from the intensification of agriculture and with colonial myths about our country unravelling, water is being reconsidered not only as a natural element essential to our wellbeing, but as a carrier of histories and traditions, myriad individual and collective meanings.

The Water Project engages with the complex realities of water in the 21st Century – as bringer of life and ancestral voice, but also as a contested commodity and saleable resource. Thirteen artists explore the cultural, conceptual and imaginative qualities of rivers, lakes, wetlands and freshwater systems of Aotearoa/New Zealand and their crucial role in the well-being of our communities.


This exhibition is developed and toured by the Ashburton Art Gallery and Creative NZ. Curated by Shirin Khosraviani.