Looking for lost water –Exploration at the cradle | Department of Art & Performing Arts

Looking for lost water –Exploration at the cradle

Looking for lost water –Exploration at the cradle

September /October 2017.

As part an interfaculty program at the university entitled "Watershed", the program at the University of the Witwatersrand Johannesburg, South Africa brings together researchers and artists from the School of Public Health, Faculties of Engineering and the Built Environment and Humanities, and the School of Art, in collaboration with three university centres and institutes- Centre in Water Research and Development, the Wits City Institute, and the Centre for Indian Studies in Africa and is taking place also in collaboration with the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society, Brown University, Providence RI. USA.

Focus of the exhibition/installation

The work would attempt to examine water as repository of history, meaning and myth within the Johannesburg gold mining context taking references of land and water from historical contexts. The occupation, exploitation and commodification of water , land and its resources has been reverberating across generations to now pose concerns of and to future life in the area will be the focus of the work. The emphasis on natural resource ‘greed’ and what is ‘need’ to protect areas and resources would be nuanced within the work.

I have been involved in projects which forground water, its use, misuse, distribution, politics and its local religious and mythical significance in my hometown of New Delhi, India. An oppurtunity to work in Johannnesburg defintely could not be overlooked where similar reverberations of greed for land and its resources coupled with contestations and exclusions being built into the system seems very obvious.

How consumption and contamination outweighs of the very land outweighs the necesssity of conserving a life affriming and life giving element –Water !

On my explorations of the gold mine dumps and the areas around them with my intern Oupa Lisime, all the ones we were able to access gave me a fair bit of insight into the actual lanscape of Jobhannesburg. Most of the time hidden from direct view the very large tracts of land stand apparently neglected due to contamination and the run off water from these sites very openly seeping into groundwater and sufrace water. Also exploring how people live, in and around the dumps developing local language/s and words for operations and acts that may not have existed pre-mining. Being from India , a country with highest consumption of gold, the work explores exploitation and consumption while questioning the very need to exploit resources at the cost of future generations visually forgrounding the condition of the land today and its imedaite environs.

Being a South-South collaboration which today is extremely important as always but more now, to share ideas and resources on similar concerns of environmental degradation, contamination vs development and regulation and equal distribution of essential resuources and attempts at trying to address them without necessarily referencing the north as the only model.

Atul Bhalla

Associate Professor

School of Art and Performing Arts