Carl Mika: When ‘water’ meets its limits: A Maori speculation on the term wai

When ‘water’ meets its limits: A Maori speculation on the term wai (PDF)

There is something thoroughly unsatisfactory and incomplete about the usual translation of the Maori term ‘wai’ as ‘water’ and ‘who’. Consequently, as Maori sceptics we need to think outside of the limitations imposed by western thought and speculate on the vitality of the Maori language and existence, although through a colonised lens. While I do not completely discard the translations of water and who and their strict referencing, I speculate beyond their colonising limitations and consider the possibility that wai is an active, existential and metaphysical phenomenon that gives rise to entities by its pervasion. In a colonising era, where English language and its foundations would separate water and who from each other to distinguish them, we can conceive of them abstractly through a term that embraces them whilst not directly referencing them. This paper considers the possibility of the English term ‘pervasion’ as the confluence of the intention of both water and who.

Keywords: water; identity; Maori; existentialism; metaphysics

Volume 2019 / Issue 2