Bron

Art-science collaboration
on the hidden dimensions
of urban water crises

Colophon:

Photography and concept: Zindzi Zwietering
Design and edit: Lyanne Tonk
Research and writing: Lize Swartz
Lithography: Coen Hamers
Print: Drukkerij Tielen, Boxtel
Binding: Patist, Den Dolder

Distribution: Idea Books
Publisher: The Eriskay Connection
Edition: 750
Individual orders: eriskayconnection.com

Bron, an art-science book capturing Cape Town's water crisis, is out now. The publication sits at the interface of art and science, revealing how residents of Cape Town navigated the city's water crisis through photographs and texts that are based on observations, personal experience, and research on understandings of and adaptation to water scarcity in other South African towns.

 

Three grants from the Mondriaan Fund, the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds, and the Stokroos Foundation ultimately made the publication of the book possible. The authors have also received generous financial support from private donors who have helped fund the book through a crowdfunding campaign on voordekunst.nl.

Bron was published in September 2022 by Dutch independent publisher The Eriskay Connection.

 

World Café

 

In June 2020, Zindzi and I were invited to talk at a world café hosted by a handful of Belgian organisations including 11.11.11, Oxfam-Wereldwinkels, Broederlijk Delen, MO* and Dienst Ontwikkelingssamenwerking Stad Antwerpen. We reflected on how water users make sense of changing water availability in urban contexts through a reflection of Cape Town’s water crisis. At that time, a drought was sweeping through Western Europe, leading to water restrictions and new understandings of the value of water. Our observations, we hope, could help water users in high-income countries who had likely never faced water shortages to better understand changing water availability.

Exhibition Bron.jpg

On 10 March 2020, just days before the world went into lockdown as the pandemic started its slow march of destruction, photographer Zindzi Zwietering launched her photo exhibition called Bron at the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS). Zwietering had travelled to Cape Town expecting an apocalyptic scenario in the weeks before Day Zero – the day on which the entire city’s taps would be turned off following the depletion of its water supplies. Her work documented life on the ground at the height of the crisis, revealing surprising and sometimes beautiful moments.

I also found myself in Cape Town during this time, in February 2018, observing how residents were coping with severe water restrictions imposed by the city's administration. My observations were closely linked to my PhD research on the same topic – how water users navigate changing water availability in urban contexts, especially due to drought. I was therefore invited to give a talk at the opening of the exhibition. This has been the start of a fruitful multidisciplinary project.