Cultural Sustainability Symposium

The first Cultural Sustainability Symposium in New Zealand, featuring special international guests.

7-10 August 2017

The Sustainability Campfire at the Hunter Council Chamber. From right: Marco Sonzogni (VUW), Ellen Van Neerven (Aus), Rosita Worl (Alaska), Rawinia Higgens ( Dep V/C Maori, VUW), Marjan van den Belt (Assistant V/C Sustainability) and guests.

This international and interdisciplinary symposium embraced the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) following the vision and mission of Victoria Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Sustainability), A/Prof Marjan van den Belt. It proposed an 18th goal: cultural sustainability, a concept that was explored by many special guests.

There were four evening events – two keynote addresses, a sustainability campfire, and a creative conservation – and three 2-hour thematic roundtables. The roundtables featured a range of students, experts and activists on the topics of Transgender NZ: Human Rights & Identity Politics, Accessible Futures: Technologies and Community Services, and Land & Lifestyle: In Comfort & In Crisis.  

Two keynote addresses were delivered by Professor Michael Cronin (Dublin City University) and by Professor Douglas Robinson (Hong Kong Baptist University) - two of the most innovative and influential scholars of Translation Studies working today. Robinson's visit was funded by the NZ Centre for Literary Translation at Victoria. Cronin's book Eco-Translation: Translation and Ecology in the Age of the Anthropocene and Robinson's book Translationality: Essays in the Translational-Medical Humanities were launched in partnership with Routledge/Taylor and Francis and Vic Books. 

A third keynote address (Cultural Sustainability Campfire) was delivered by Professor Rosita Worl (Tlingit), President of Sealaska Heritage Trust, Alaska, who shared her experiences as an indigenous advocate and author.

Dr Sydney Shep, Wai-te-ata Press, facilitated a collective think-tank on the concept of Cultural Sustainability (CS) in the context of the SDGs the morning before Worl's address. The group reached a working definition of CS as "the recognition and celebration of difference and diversity, working towards understanding our place on this planet, through transformative translation and storytelling." 

One last day of the symposium, poet Fabiano Alborghetti gave an emotionally charged reading from his book, Portraits of Absencewhich was launched at Wai-te-ata Press. Members of the audience read the English translations of the Italian poems, and Fahim Afarinasadi read his own Persian translation of one of Alborghetti's poems.

Sustainability Creators-in-Residence Sheyne Tuffery and Barbara Strathdee showed their work, followed by a panel later in the evening featuring Ellen Van Neerven, Pip Adam and Fumio Obata, facilitated by Mark Cubey at Wai-te-ata Press.

View the full programme to see the range of topics discussed and the participants.

For more information on our special guests, check out the media coverage including a Spinoff article on Fumio Obata, Maori television interview with Rosita Worl (starting at 13.48mins) and Radio NZ interviews with Rosita Worl and Ellen Van Neerven.

The event was live tweeted by @wtapress under #culturalsustainability