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Developing relational understandings of water through collaboration with indigenous knowledges

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Scholars around the world are increasingly taking up the imperative of the Anthropocene to develop new epistemologies beyond the nature culture binary in order to address escalating planetary problems. Water is one of the most urgent and extreme cases of global resource depletion and the failure of development to recognize the significance of indigenous water knowledges is cited as fundamental to this dire situation. In Australia, a thirteen year drought that threatened the survival of the Murray–Darling system was believed to be related to changing climatic conditions in the global south and intimately connected to the increasing impact of human species on planetary systems. Natural resource managers in Australia have a history of failing to incorporate Aboriginal knowledges into decisions about the management of water. This article explores how a collaborative study of water with five Indigenous artists in Australia's Murray–Darling basin can contribute to the development of new epistemologies of water. It identifies the possibilities of thinking through Australian Aboriginal concepts of Country for a contemporary methodology of water based on traditional epistemologies in which human and ecological systems are conceptualised as one. The methodology of thinking through Country was developed in multimodal forms including paintings, translations from Aboriginal languages, and oral explanations assembled in digital format. This methodology allowed shared contemporary understandings to emerge in the space between Aboriginal and non‐Aboriginal knowledge of water. Examples of art forms and stories reveal intimate local ecological knowledge of water embedded in contemporary cultural forms and languages. WIREs Water 2014, 1:401–411. doi: 10.1002/wat2.1030 This article is categorized under: Human Water > Value of Water Human Water > Water as Imagined and Represented
Dancing figures, Mt Gundabooka National Park.
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Iron Pole Bend, Wilcannia: lino print, Badger Bates
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Finding and knowing place of self and others within Country: methodology.
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Human Water > Water as Imagined and Represented

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