My Water, My Culture
The Cultural Arts Coalition in collaboration with AZ Water Association brought a workshop about water to the Grand Avenue historic district on April 21, 2023. Participants ranged in age from teens through older adults. This free, family friendly event responded to three questions:
- What is “my” personal relationship with water, my water culture?
- What is the state of water locally?
- Is there something that I can do to conserve and preserve water for the future?
This project is the vision of Mitra Kamali, artist and engineer (right image, center), who spent her early years in Tehran and her adult years in the southwestern United States. The conservation of water has been a focus of her study, not only as a petroleum engineer in the Gulf, but also as an artist.
Mitra's painting "Water Quest," used in the poster to the left, is her most recent exploration of water concerns. My Water, My Culture, the first-of many workshops, calls everyone to explore their relationship with water.
The paintings to the left are a visual rendering of water data. Mitra says of this work:
"In my artwork titled "Water Crisis Diptych," I conducted a study to show diminishing water at a certain portion of the Colorado River within a 20-year lifespan. I searched for satellite images taken in 1998 and 2018 and made a comparison that inspired me to paint. "Water Crisis Diptych" was chosen to be on display at the Water in the Desert exhibition at Sky Harbor Museum January to July 2019."
Artists often complete significant research to create their work. As a visual artist, Mitra communicates her perspective in paint and other media, while a scientist may communicate in formulas and graphs.
Early Memories and Storytelling
"My Water, My Culture" began with people creating art centered around their personal experiences with water. As participants gathered, they picked up materials that they wanted to play with. Fine paper and pastels were available at the tables with magazines, beautiful papers, and other materials nearby.
While people were drawing, Mitra shared a few words from the beautiful Caldecott Award winning children's book We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goade.
It begins, "Water is the first medicine, Nokomis told me. We come from water. It nourished us inside our mother's body. As it nourishes us here on Mother Earth. Water is sacred, she said." The repeating chorus sings, "We stand | With our songs | And our drums. | We are still here."
Learning about Local Water
Rebecca Sydnor and Jason Joynes, professionals from AZ Water Association, brought a wealth of information on local sources of water, how it is stored, treated, and moved from source to homes and businesses. Rebecca's slide deck "Urban Water Sources" is available for print and download.
Everyone present was engaged from the first minute of the presentation and discussion, asking one question after another about the state of water in our communities locally. The time went by too quickly, and it was clear that more opportunity is needed for these conversations.
IDEAS: What will stay with you from our conversation with AZ Water?
- Complexity of agencies and scientists working together
- We’re safe for a while
- Stay away from storm water!
- How to access maps from the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR)
- The money and bargaining involved around water
STORIES: What is in your memories in contrast to your experience today?
- The changing culture around water
- I had an early interest in the ocean, it evoked intensity, and now we’re concerned about trickles
- I fell into the water field accidentally, then realized how important it is to everybody. I’m always learning.
- I always grew up near water as a healing resource, and now I doubt the healing quality of that same resource.
- Getting closer to ancient ways is important.
ACTION: What do we do?
- In communities, take care of each other.
- Educate! The issue is divisive. Teach people when they're young.
- Meet people where they are.
- Be present, vocal, and know what your city counsel is doing. Stand up in meetings, and vote!
- Live like you’re in a campground.
- Get the city people to tell you why and how. It’s possible to get concessions. Require that government gets educated. We may be the ones to do it.
Thank you to AZ Water Association for collaborating on this important project. The AZ Water Association is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization founded in 1928 with a membership of more than 2,700 water professionals dedicated to preserving and enhancing Arizona's water environment. Although AZ Water is an independent organization, it also manages the Arizona section of the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and the Arizona member association of the Water Environment Federation (WEF). Visit www.azwater.org for more information.
Thank you as well to Michelle Meyer of Snoodmen LLC and Snood City Styles on 1018 Grand Avenue, Phoenix for hosting this event in your beautiful space.
We enter this project with great appreciation to the ancient indigenous peoples around the world who have shown us wisdom in conserving and preserving water. Locally, the Hohokam built canals that are the foundation for our canals today. As this project continues, resources will be made available to learn more.
Contact us! if you'd like to be involved. Your participation is important to us. Come create, offer a venue, be a sponsor, engage in the conversation.
Photos by Melanie Ohm and Mitra Kamali | Photo Narrative by Melanie Ohm 2023