stories create value :::

photo: Gina Kaltipli, Further Arts
How does wisdom travel?

What is Cascade Network?

Cascade Network is researching and protoyping the creation of self-sovereign cultural and communication networks with communities in the Pacific. We are researching how traditional creative practices can work with new media technologies to create networks for community wisdom.

We have run explorative workshops with Mixed Reality, 360 video and binaural sound and network technologies. Artistic community workshops bring together experimental interactive solutions towards documenting stories, intangible culture and oral tradition in ways that centre embodied communication and the land.

Each network is designed and owned by the community itself, emphasises that sharing stories, cultural practices and dreams in community strengthens understanding, resilience, identity and grows wisdom to meet challenges.


The Cascade Network has origin in 2015 at ONCA Gallery’s Festival of Climate Ideas and the #ArtCop21 during the Climate Talks in Paris 2015. The creative protests during Cop21 brought together activists, artists, technologists and earth citizens to stand together for the planet and listen to the communities on the front lines of the Climate Crisis. 

During the meeting in Paris, a relationship with the Leweton Community in Vanuatu, the NGO [Further Arts]( and Intercreate in Aotearoa NZ was initiated through artists Sandy Sur, Kate Genevieve, Toby Gifford and Tom Dick with the support of Sarah Doyle, Dr Leah Barclay and the Balance Unbalance Network.

Festival of Climate Ideas ONCA ︎︎

ArtCop21 ︎︎

Creative communities

The Cascade grew across the years through strong relationships between the Leweton Cultural Village and through residencies in Leweton, and workshops and meetings across diverse networks working across arts, media and indigenous rights, such as Balance Unbalance and Scanz Canberra.

During the evacuation of Ambae in 2017, the Ambae community asked Further Arts to support them in recording the stories of the island as community members relocate to nearby islands. This invitation galvanised the Cascade Network to explore mobilising the creative and radical potentials of emerging network technologies towards holding cultural knowledge in ways that supported the cultural sovereignty of Pacific communities.

In 2023, we are developing an artistic prototype - Aelans - the Bislama word for Islands. Aelans is an app to share recorded stories and culture, as well as recording dreams and climate diary, with powerful location features and star guides. The work holds an intention that - with trust, care and mutual respect - decentralised network technologies can explore a plurality of futures for technology and provide real support to ni-Vanuatu communities who want to communicate in ways that are grounded in living knowledge, values, and culture.


Aelans // Network Prototype

We start at the beginning:

stories create value

photo: Gina Kaltipli, Further Arts

Aelans is a creative R&D project with Sandy Sur, an artist and community leader with the Leweton Cultural Group working with ni-Vanuatu communities to record stories and culture. Sandy understands story-telling, dreams, and culture as vital ways to grow resilience and connection.

When communities have to rebuild or relocate to neighbouring towns or islands in response to extreme events there are serious questions around resources, work and how to continue traditional practices and create the cultural value that sustains the community.

The inspiration for a network of sovereign digital archives came through the work of Further Arts during the Ambae evacuations in 2018. The Independent ran the story of how Further Arts‘ cultural documentation during the Ambae evacuations supported resilience and nurtured confidence. The people’s Paramount Chief, Benuel Garae, the President of the Ambae Island Council of Chiefs, then invited Further Arts to help the community document the stories of Ambae on their own terms as they faced great uncertainty due to the unstable activity of the island’s volcano. 
The development of Aelans will support and enrich creative documentation through community led workshops and co-design exploring immersive creative recording techniques, and the development of a digital network to hold these recordings safely.

Emphasis is placed on techniques that centre accessibility and embodied communication eg. Augmented Reality, 360 Recordings and photogrammetry of the island. The project researches community response and recommendations for community owned immersive web portals - accessible to mobile phones on Vanuatu - that can support and encourage cultural expression and connection during extreme periods (eg. rebuilding after cyclones and forced migration.)

The artists are working with network technologies to explore how a specific value that a story creates can find digital life and also be inscribed in a craft object. These story objects can be embedded with the coding of their own digital provenance creating fresh possibilities for hybrid forms evolving craft practices and value exchange.

With partners in acoustic ecology we are developing bespoke prototype technology built on open source RSA Public/Private key encryption, and utilising digital signatures and hash functions to establish and leverage digital provenance. This creates possibilities similar to those that underlie blockchain technology, but it is decentralised, open source and public, and can enable further features and flows of knowledge and value. Inherent to this work is community leadership. Open tools can allow for further evolutions and the potential for additional functionality to grow to support the needs of unique particular communities with network solutions.

The features of the Prototype created are:

photo: Gina Kaltipli, Further Arts
  • The design privileges place-based (or localised, locative, or local) intangible cultural heritage (ICH), without excluding physical objects and artefacts.

  • The physical object itself may also be the output of dynamic processes of ICH (in other words: creative currency.)

  • The functions (the rules, the codes, the laws) of digital provenance are performed by the specific community eg. through the production of woven pandanus mats which are patterned with traditional dyes.

  • The system does not exist to create assets for speculation on the Crypto markets, but to mirror and support the logic underpinning forms of community creativity eg. creating value through the weaving of pandanus mats.

  • The value created is an emergent currency, which requires no Reserve Bank or Mint. It facilitates the distributed allocation of resources and is operated by participants in the community.

A cascade network for culture and knowledge to enable Self-sovereign Co-operatively owned infrastructure

The design of this system allows for value to be attached to cultural products in ways that are being defined and determined locally (i.e by the specific community in Vanuatu). The details of how this value exchange would be set up is community driven and there is flexibility inscribed which allows choices to be made around what to share and what not to share. For example, it is possible for the community to decide to release digital traceable objects reflective of craft whilst limiting access to recorded local knowledge, and sharing this with only the community network. 

Choice and consent is the domain of the community: the emphasis on local nodes and collaborative workshops is to strengthen the basis for a network of culture and knowledge on the terms of these communities.

Community, Ecology and Technology Innovation

This is an experimental research project in service to community leadership and as such will develop as relationships grow across time. 

The alternative currencies of Vanuatu - the continued production of Shell Money on some islands and the variety of pandanus practices indigenous to Ambae - encode a rich historical understanding of innovating value systems. Co-design workshops will support cultural activities so that community knowledge and creativity direct the logic and design of a digital system to facilitate flows of cultural value.

Progressive technology networks can potentially give formalised support to vastly extend the reach of cultural creativity. Defining how that value will be organised is a creative act and belongs to members of the communities themeselves. The project works with the Cascade Network’s partners Further Arts and their decades of experience facilitating community meetings and creative workshop in Vanuatu. 

Blog Posts

a journey in co-creating

photo: Gina Kaltipli, Further Arts

The Dung Verei Festival 
Leweton Cultural Village, Banks Islands

Support needed for this year’s Dung Verei Cultural Festival

“Language is our identity. Language is our culture. Down deep in the ocean to the top of the mountains, language is our roots and connection. We have to understand our native language because that’s where our foundation is.”

Sandy Sur, Leweton Cultural Village

Dung Verei Vanuatu: GoFundMe 2021

There is an opportunity to support the ongoing cultural revival across the islands of Vanuatu by funding the Leweton Cultural Community’s work organizing the Dung Verei Festival (sound of the island), a local festival in Santo held the first weekend of October 2021. 

The festival brings together communities of the Torba Province and the Banks Islands in the North of Vanuatu. Vanuatu consists of many different island communities each with a unique wealth of kastom: stories, music, dance, food preparation and cultural practices such as carving, weaving and also the creation of local currencies. The festival is a real opportunity for creative demonstrations of cultural practices and for people to engage in dialogue and learning with other communities in a celebration of the many languages of the island.

The Go Fund Me is for folk who want to invest in community-rooted, transformative cultural work. A small investment of cash can be a massive contribution to this vital work with cultural heritage. 

Community Leader Sandy Sur is Manager of Leweton Cultural Experience and Women’s Water Music, based on the island of Espiritu Santo in Vanuatu. Sandy has been working on the organization of the Dung Verei Festival for the last three years.

Sandy Sur (Leweton Cultural Experience) and Shelley Darling (Loving Waters, World Unity Week) will be speaking on June 24th about the event at Dung-Verei ~ Pacific Island Water Dreaming  

Project leader: Sandy Sur
sandy at lewetonculturalcommunity dot com