The word for 'water music' in the Mwerlap language of Merelava is Ëtëtung. It is the spellbinding cultural performance of the women from the Leweton Community in Vanuatu’s remote northern islands, as they stand waist-deep in water while swirling and slapping the surface to create a beautiful rhythmic tapestry of aquatic percussion and an hypnotic visual display.

This, along with na mag, ne leang, and mato (traditional dance, chants, and traditional beats with stringband music) are part of the traditional cultural heritage of the Mwerlap speaking diaspora. Today it is being re-imagined as contemporary form of performance art, world music, and customary dance.

EGF is partnering with Wantok Music Foundation in this project , supporting the Vanuatu Women’s Water Music group to present elements of their traditional cultural heritage to various international industry showcase events and festivals in 2014-15.

Currently the group is self-managed and they do not have the capacity to represent themselves in the international music industry. This project will create opportunities for the group to meet with potential agents, bookers, and managers. It will also be an opportunity for them to promote their unique cultural heritage to a much broader audience. There are major financial benefits to the Leweton community in expanding their capacity for international performance. The income they can generate from the sale of the DVD and from performances fees at festivals, is exponentially greater than the opporunities for generating revenue in their islands. The revenue generated will be directed to the remote communities of Gaua and Merelava and will fund the maintenance of basic infrastructure such as water supply, health clinic and school buildings.

Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu; Melbourne, Australia; Budapest, Hungary; & Copenhagen, Denmark.
5,000
Tom Dick - The World Spins
Wantok Music Foundation & the Leweton Community

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    February 11, 2015

    Leweton Delegates at SCANZ2015:water*peace in Aotearoa

    In January 2015, the Leweton Cultural Experience, sent two delegates from their home in Vanuatu to Aotearoa New Zealand. The delegation included Sandy Sur, Manager, and Prim Rose Wari, who is an artist and Administrator for the group. Sandy and Prim Rose were in Aotearoa to launch their recent DVD release "Vanuatu Women's Water Music" and meet Renita Glencross, ED of Ethos Global who was also at...

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    In January 2015, the Leweton Cultural Experience, sent two delegates from their home in Vanuatu to Aotearoa New Zealand. The delegation included Sandy Sur, Manager, and Prim Rose Wari, who is an artist and Administrator for the group. Sandy and Prim Rose were in Aotearoa to launch their recent DVD release "Vanuatu Women's Water Music" and meet Renita Glencross, ED of Ethos Global who was also at the residency.

    The idea for a specific "launch" event came out of discussions Sandy had with collaborating partners: Wantok Musik, Further Arts and The Planet Spins. Wantok Musik had been negoatiaing with some festivals in Europe for the Leweton group to perform in Hungary, Italy, and Denmark. Unfortunately, when one of the festivals withdrew their involvement in the tour, it made it impossible for the rest of the tour to go ahead. The cost of the flights for all the members of the Leweton group to get to Europe is extremely high!

    However, Sandy had brought the group to Australia in 2013 for perofrmances at the Floating Land festival and also the Balance/Unbalance Conference. It was at the Balance/Unbalance event where Sandy met Ian Clothier from Intercreate, organisers of the "Solar Circuit Aotearoa New Zealand" Residency program (SCANZ). Ian invited Sandy to bring a delegation from Leweton to participate in the SCANZ residency for 2015 in Taranaki. This provided the perfect platform for Sandy and Primrose to launch the DVD for people in Aotearoa New Zealand.

    It was a perfect fit because the theme of the event was "SCANZ2015:water*peace" which brings together people from diverse backgrounds,connecting everyone in a positive expression of our relationship with water and the power of peace. As ian says on his website: "Wai, water or flow is central to the worldviews of many indigenous cultures of Earth, and is of special significance to tangata whenua (the people of the land) of Aotearoa New Zealand."

    A slight drama ensued prior to Sandy and Prim Rose leaving Vanuatu when the issuing of their visas was delayed. This meant that they had to delay all of their flights (international and connecting domestics flights) and they missed the first half of the two week residency. This is an important issue for Leweton and for all the artists in the Pacific (and many other places around the world). Despite the fact that they had their forms and documentation in order, they paid their fees, and submitted the visa application in advance, they were still delayed by the processing office. This ends up costing the artists time and money and it creates enormous problems for any artists wishing to tour or perform or present their work outside of their home country.

    But regardless of the challenges, Sandy and Prim Rose had a wonderful experience, making new friends and exploring new opportunities and sharing the Leweton Cultural Experience with new audiences.

    As a part of the residency program, Prim Rose created a series of nature-based works that reflect a woman's quotidian experience. Seen in this photo, Prim ROse is weaving pandanus and coconut leaves into decorative and functional items. Sandy and Prim Rose also presented a screening of selected clips from the DVD.

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    November 17, 2014

    Launch of the Vanuatu Women's Water Music DVD at AWME

    Sandy Sur - the Manager of the Leweton Cultural Experience with David Bridie - founder and Chairperson of the Wantok Musik Foundation, together on Saturday night, November 15, officially launched the Leweton Cultural Experience DVD "Vanuatu Women's Water Music" in the presence of hundreds of international delegates at the Australasian Worldwide Music Expo. More photos are available on the Leweton...

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    Sandy Sur - the Manager of the Leweton Cultural Experience with David Bridie - founder and Chairperson of the Wantok Musik Foundation, together on Saturday night, November 15, officially launched the Leweton Cultural Experience DVD "Vanuatu Women's Water Music" in the presence of hundreds of international delegates at the Australasian Worldwide Music Expo. More photos are available on the Leweton facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/leweton.watermusic

    The opportunity to launch the DVD in the presence of world music representatives from all over the world provided an excellent foundation for Sandy and the Leweton community. Leweton was "formed" in 2008, when Sandy was living on the fringe of Luganville, Espiritu Santo, the second biggest town in Vanuatu with a population of almost 15,000. Sandy brought together the Mwerlap community living in and around Luganville and facilitated the establishment of a conscious community – a peri-urban “cultural village” – for the dual purpose of maintaining cultural heritage and presenting their cultural heritage to tourists. They named their village “Leweton” being an acronym of six of the villages they came from on Gaua and Merelava. With support from the New Zealand High Commission the Leweton group constructed a purpose-built “pool” for performing the water music and then constructed a “cultural village” around it.  

    As the incidence of tourist visitations increased, the Leweton group built on the unique and spectacular performance of the water music and bundled  other elements of their cultural heritage into the overall “show”. It now includes na-matto a syncretised format of the Melanesian stringband with elements of traditional musical instruments and rhythms and chants, ma-mag, the young men’s traditional dance accompanied by traditional rhythms played on slit gong drums made of bamboo and wood accompanied by chants and songs; and ne-leang the women’s version of the traditional dancing and singing. As the village becomes more established and more popular (and more profitable) they have incorporated demonstrations of other cultural activities including preparation and cooking of food, traditional games and magic tricks, preparation and consumption of kava, and weaving of toys, baskets, mats, and costumes. Many of these artefacts are on displayed for sale to visitors.

    The production of the Vanuatu Women's Water Music DVD, with Wantok Musik, Further Arts, and The Planet Spins, has opened up a new pathway for the Leweton group to engage with the international audiences. Facilitated by The Planet Spins, Sandy is now negotiating with high-end TV producers for the DVD to be made into a four-part documentary series for broadcast television. If successful, this will create signifacnt new revenue streams for the village and take the Mwerlap culture to more homes around the world.

    The next update will feature photos and reports from Sandy's trip to Taranaki in Aotearoa New Zealand where he launched the DVD in January.

    Photography: Nick Harrison http://nickharrison.photoshelter.com

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