Photo: Alexandra Masmanidi

SPAfrica is a solo performance in collaboration with South African/Swiss performer Ntando Cele about empathy and extractivism. The project explores how closely racism is linked to capitalism through water as conflict material.

Together with Ntando Cele and the Utrecht-based musician and producer Frank Wienk we will create a hybrid experience combining theatre, music and (music) video… where water and tears serve as metaphors for the extraction of natural and emotional resources. Mine your trauma.

The project explores the limits of empathy – the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference. In SPAfrica the discourse on empathy is taken a step further with the goal to reveal problematic mechanics of its working. What if empathy is a practice and an active technology that is not to modify and to work against privilege and power but a tool that reinforces it?

SPAfrica introduces a sustainable product that is as conflicting as it is clear: drinking water that originates from the sub-Saharan regions and is imported into Europe. SPAfrica – the world’s first ’empathy drink’. An invitation to critically reflect about extractivism and commodity-fetishism. The project unravels how water bodies and bodies of water are related and we link the extraction of natural resources with a more poetic idea of extractivism by working with tears as an alternative raw material.

The artistic proposition goes beyond the commodification of concrete materials to the possibility of capitalising on intangible assets such as identity and cultural background. In the international art market, cultural background and identity of the protagonists have become valuable assets of value creation. It seems like trauma is the new gold of the arts. What does it take to transform a negative resource into something valuable?