Jump to: Making Waveforms: South Africa (2019) · Making Waveforms: Canada (2019)

Making Waveforms is an outdoor-education-meets-art-activism program championing global water justice. Through experiential learning, demonstrations and a number of field trips (i.e. water sports, riverside soundwalk, etc.), participants in this course are asked to explore their relationships with water. They are paired with local Knowledge Keepers and are tasked with building meaningful connections over a period of five weeks, to create short, site-specific videos to raise awareness about the importance of healthy waterways. 

During the course participants explore alternative cinematic narrative models like Slow Media, and experiment with sound art in nature through soundscape recording. They explore intersections between traditional/local knowledge and Western science, and gain experience with an art-based research method called photovoice. In a mentored and peer-supported environment, participants develop hands-on experience with: relationship-building, participatory field research, communications, collaboration, and public engagement. No prior video experience is required, participants are NOT required to participate in the Making Waveforms research. 

A range of contributors enrich the learning experience: 

  • The primary course designer/instructor/facilitator is Sarah Van Borek, a PhD student in Environmental Education at Rhodes University's Environmental Learning Research Centre (ELRC). Sarah is a Canadian-born, Cape Town based documentary filmmaker and educator who has been teaching at Canada's top art and design post-secondary school, the Emily Carr University of Art + Design, since 2012. When Sarah was  as an undergraduate at the Emily Carr University, she designed a Making Waveforms program in affiliation with the David Suzuki Foundation (a science-based non-profit organisation) in July/August 2019. A public screening and dialogue event launched participants' videos at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum. This program is part of Sarah’s PhD research on reconciliation through relational, site-specific, media arts based environmental education on the water-climate change nexus in Canada and South Africa. 

  • At Future Water, Sarah has been collaborating with Amber Abrams (post-doctoral fellow). The synergies between their efforts have resulted in a number of workshops and learning engagements facilitated by their WaterArtsEd team (including Amber, Sarah and Anna James, another PhD candidate at the ELRC).

In 2019, Making Waveforms programs were run in Canada and South Africa. The films from these programs are shown below.

Making Waveforms: South Africa (2019)

The course in Cape Town in 2019 culminated at the Tshisimani Activist Education Centre's Bertha Bioscope with a public screening and dialogue event launching the videos listed below.


'Unreachable Waters' by Khadra Ghedi Alasow 'Transformations' by Sharda Beerthuis
'Intersections' by Brendon Bosworth  'Zandvlei' by Ruth Brain
'Channels for Change' by Kathryn Byrnes 'The Language of Water' by Daniella Davies
'Sweet and Salty' by Kathrin Krause 'The Hout Bay Estuary' by Fatima Mohamed

Making Waveforms: Canada (2019)

The videos below were launched at a public screening and dialogue event launched at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum in Vancouver.


'Reflection' by Ryanne Bergler

In this short film, Reflection (Canada, 2019), I explored the Capilano River in North Vancouver, BC, Canada, and the importance of our water sources. The Capilano River is on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səl’il’wətaʔ (Tsleil-Waututh). I reflected on my connection to this water source as I have lived nearby and have regularly visited this river for the past 14 years. I have introduced the river with both the traditional Indigenous and English names to respectively honour and include all the peoples who previously and currently share and care for the Capilano River and its surrounding areas. The Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh peoples share the same name, followed by the Squamish names. Visually and technically, I was influenced by filmmaker Gregory Coyes’ Slow Media approach to capturing stunning images of nature and spaces within the environment. We, the visitors, the guests on this land...must nurture and take care of the water to support the plants and animals we have disrupted. The time is now, we all need to take meaningful actions every day to use less water…to properly dispose of or recycle items…or sign petitions to support the health of the Earth and all living things. We can protect and heal our waters and our Earth if we connect with one another, with nature, and with the sources of our water.


'Xwmélts'stn/ Xʷməθkʷəy̓əma?/Capilano' by Xian Da Shi

Water is an essential part of our daily lives. Not only is our body made of 70% water, no industry is possible without it. However, while most water advocacy is centered solely around the preservation of species and ecosystems, this film tries to dig deeper to try to uncover the reason for the neglect humans have for water and water rights. The film Xwmélts'stn/ Xʷməθkʷəy̓əma?/Capilano (Canada, 2019), is directed and produced by Xian Da Shi, a Chinese Canadian design student currently residing in the city of Vancouver, in British Columbia, [Canada], where most of the storytelling of this film takes place. Throughout the film, Xian Da tries to connect humanity’s neglect for water to the abuse of First Nations' communities on the coast of British Columbia. With the aforementioned juxtaposition, Xian Da tries to draw the conclusion that the reason behind both forms of neglect is selfishness.


'亡灵岛' (Deadman's Island) by Andy H. Gao

My name is Haoluan Gao, but mostly I go by Andy. I was born and raised in Beijing China, and came to Vancouver as an international student about 6 years ago. Within my video, 亡灵岛 or Deadman's Island (Canada, 2019), I documented my relationship with Lost Lagoon based on my personal experience and understanding of the place through my voice and camera lens. I took the poem Lost Lagoon by E. Pauline Johnson which she included in her book Legends of Vancouver (1911). I tried to stand in her shoes first and experience what she might have seen, heard and felt at this location back in the day. Then I went back to the location and tried to experience the same place as her, but in my own perspective at a different time period. I translated the poem into my own native language (Mandarin) and put this into the video, as a way to show respect to what she did for the Squamish language . One thing I realized during this process is that what we did for this course, which is documenting our relationship with water, is actually something everybody is doing on a daily basis. Of course, it doesn’t necessarily have to be in the form of a short film. It could be anything. It could be a selfie you took with your phone on a beautiful lake while traveling, or a photograph you took with your camera of a sunset on your favourite beach, or even just a couple sketches of waveforms in your sketchbook. If you think carefully, our relationships with water have always been closer than we think. Water is everywhere. It’s just because water is an element so common in our daily life, that we don’t really notice it even though it is all around us.


'The Price Tag of the Sea' by Aino Keinaenen

Aino Keinaenen’s The Price Tag of the Sea (Canada, 2019) is a short media piece exploring the relationships people in the modern world share with water bodies, specifically the oceans. The work intends to merge different methods of storytelling to create a narrative that is easily communicable to a variety of audiences. In her piece, she discusses peoples' relationships with the oceans and how industrialism and urbanism has changed them. Walking around in Vancouver, the houses that rise by the beach and the boats that are on the sea aren’t a normal part of the average citizen’s life as they are in many less urbanized settlements of people, or what would have been before the industrialization and colonization of Vancouver. This piece shows how this affects Vancouver’s relationship with its environment and waterways, and how the residents experience difficulty feeling connected with something they don’t interact with. Aino Keinaenen is a multidisciplinary artist, and this is one of her first pieces working with storytelling through film.

'Deer Lake' by Atanaz Khandan-Barani

'Healing in Blue' by Tess Snaden

Growing up, I grounded myself to the bodies of water that surrounded me. When I moved across the country away from my family at age 18, the water is where I found a sense of home. “I have grown up being healed by the sound of water.” This sentence is the second sentence in my video, Healing in Blue (Canada, 2019), following one stating that the song being played was composed and recorded at Deer Lake. I feel as though it summarizes why I am saying thank you and why this thank you is through song. Through examining our relationships with water, the question of how we say thank you, or if we are saying thank you at all, became more and more important. In my video, I am showing my first thank you to the water through a song I played as it sang along. This thank you is not a grand gesture. It is not a quick fix to water pollution. It is simply me taking a few minutes out of my day to acknowledge and appreciate the important role water plays in my life. It is a small step towards changing the way I think about water and, in turn, changing the way I treat it.