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10 Murals Changing Our Relationship to Water

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By Kamren Curiel

My girl Nancy Hernandez has the coolest job ever. As program manager for Estria Foundation's Water Writes campaign, she organizes collaborative mural projects around the world that tell a story about the global water crisis. And if you didn't know a crisis existed, peep this: only 2% of the earth's water is actually drinkable and humans have already polluted half of it in the past 30 years. Water Writes is a series of 10 murals being painted in 10 cities that bring young people, artists and environmentalists together to create pieces that represent each community's relationship to water. Founded in 2010 by Hawaii native and 26-year graffiti vet, Estria Miyashiro, along with Twitter co-founder Jeremy LaTrasse, Estria is an Oakland-based organization that believes art has the power to create social change.

"The way we waste and commodify water can't last forever," says Nancy, who's been organizing social justice movements in the Bay Area and beyond for the past 15 years; walking out as a student in protest of Prop 187 was the start of a life dedicated to activism. "We need to look at water with a raised awareness."

Water Writes is on a mission to paint out our water predicament. Murals are already telling stories in Oakland, Los Angeles, Honolulu, and Palestine's Gaza Strip. Find out more about the 10 murals below:

1. "Cuidela" at KIPP LA Prep School, Boyle Heights, CA (pictured above): Middle school students helped paint this 25 by 100-foot mural while learning about water privatization, plastic use, and polluted tap water. Aztec icons like goddess Chalchiuhtlicue, whose jade skirts represented her protection of lakes and streams, and river god, Tlaloc, share space with a map that depicts our current state of dwindling local water sources.

2. Oakland, CA - Broadway @ 21st Street: Over 200 youth, local artists, and those in the community dedicated to greening the town with urban gardening, bike use, recycling, and minimizing our plastic consumption were involved in the making of this mural.

3. Kalihi Community, Honolulu, Hawaii: Estria collaborated with 808 Urban director and local artist, John "Prime" Hina, to create this 5,500 square foot mural that's now the largest aerosol-painted one on the island of Hawaii. It pays tribute to Hawaiian Queen Liliuokalani and her belief that water and land is the collective responsibility of the people.

4. Gaza Strip, Palestine: This mural was painted at an elementary school where the Middle East Children's Alliance implemented water filtration systems that provide clean water to 30,000 children who would otherwise lack access. "While in Palestine I learned that 95% of Gaza's ground water is contaminated with sewage and seawater," Nancy says. "Children are born with Blue Baby Syndrome and many children face chronic dehydration due to diarrhea."

5. Palawan, Philippines: This mural will be painted in Puerto Princessa at the Palawan State University, a community that uses sand filtration systems to clean the water and fights in defense of the forest.

6. San Salvador, El Salvador: This mural is planned for Usulután, a community where organizers are working to protect the mangrove forests that clean four times as much carbon from the environment as rain forests.

7. Window Rock, Arizona: Members of the Hopi and Dine tribes will come together to paint their story about defending sacred sites from desecration.

8. Bogota, Colombia: Water Writes will take to a site where community activists are battling mining companies while developing sustainable communities.

9. Vancouver, Canada: This mural will be painted along the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, a 1,700-mile oil pipeline that will destroy communities and waterways in an effort to bring oil from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada to refineries in Texas.

10. Arcata, California: Water Writes will join local native tribes and environmentalists to paint this mural along the Klamath River, where dams are being removed.

You can help preserve water by replacing plastic water bottles with a water container and simply using less water at home, work and while on the go. Keep up with #WaterWrites on Twitter and check out their video below.

 

Kamren Curiel is a Digital Media Editor at Voto Latino and freelance writer for Remezcla and MTV Iggy. Her column, AMP (Art Music Politics), profiles artists and musicians that are dedicated to a cause.