Chorographing the Vanuatu aquapelago: engaging with performatively constituted specificities of place'

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Dick, T 2015, 'Chorographing the Vanuatu aquapelago: engaging with performatively constituted specificities of place', Shima, vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 1-22.

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This article applies the concept of aquapelagic assemblages to an understanding of artistic and cultural expression in Vanuatu. Using the radical interdisciplinarity of a chorography, I explore the ways that ni-Vanuatu cultural practices such as water music and sand drawing manifest themselves as components of aquapelagic assemblages. Building on Epeli Hau’ofa’s idea of the Pacific as a “sea of islands” (1993) this article continues a project that privileges the voices of ni-Vanuatu artists and cultural producers. A sand drawing is presented as a chorographic inscription of multiscalar Oceanian ontologies informing an analysis of the livelihood aspects of human and non- human (inter)relations in-between, throughout and with islands, shores, seabeds and waters. This chorographic approach foregrounds the multiscalar dimension of aquapelagic assemblages and the interdependence of different aquapelagic assemblages with 21st Century globalised industry, science, and development. A case study of the Leweton community, featured in the Vanuatu Women’s Water Music DVD, shows that the framework of aquapelagic assemblages has value for revealing the creative processes in generating innovations in local art forms and the step-by-step process of commodification of intangible cultural heritage.