Change the world

Happening @ Mandela

Event location: Graaff-Reinet Museum

Event date and time: 22/02/2018 17:30:00

A project by Dr Magda Minguzzi coordinators of the KhoiSan community: Chief Margaret Coetzee and Chief Xam ≠ Gaob Maleiba.

The art performance “Spirit of the water” presented at the Cape Recife Nature Reserve (Port Elizabeth, South Africa) on the 05th and 06th of May 2017 was part of an international event “The way of water” that took place contextually, at the same time, in different coastal cities:  Brooklyn (US), Ouidah (BEN), Port Elizabeth (RSA), San Luis Potosí (MEX), Venice (IT), Zadar (HRV).

In the different coastal cities artists in collaboration with local communities developed different performances under the same investigatory theme:

“What is our role in maintaining necessary conditions for life on our planet: specifically in respect of water as our principal source of life?”

The scope of the artistic project was to draw attention to fragile marine environments, threatened by pollution, excessive fishing, and encroaching human development and industry. In Port Elizabeth the performance took place at the fish traps in the Cape Recife Nature Reserve which are sacred places to the KhoiSan. These traps are the most ancient man-made structures (Middle Stone Age) present in the area and were constructed by the Strandlopers (pre-colonial hunter-gatherer communities) living on the coast of Southern Africa at the time and are highly significant in terms of heritage.

The representatives of the KhoiSan people (as descendants of the Strandlopers) practiced ancient rituals, such as the “cleansing ceremony”, in view of the ocean where traces of the ancient fish traps are still visible. The performance was a metaphorical act (related to identity and culture) that connects our contemporary reality (pollution, exploitation of the sea) with a time in the past when human beings were in harmony with Mother Earth and the sea.

These rituals were accompanied by the making of a fire, an ancestral symbol of gathering and meeting.

The participants were representatives from the KhoiSan communities and individuals that have an interest in the ocean and that feel the urgency to preserve and restore it and also to re-connect with Mother Earth as in the past.

The project was realized with the support of:

Nelson Mandela University Engagement Advancement Fund (Eaf) 2017,

Communication & Stakeholder Liaison and Department of Arts and Culture of NMU,


Nelson Mandela Bay Arts Culture Heritage Department and Municipality,

Pine Lodge.


The exhibition THE SPIRIT OF WATER will be hosted in Graaff-Reinet at the Old Library Museum from 22 February 2018 where selected photographs (by Glenn Meyer, Magda Minguzzi, Alex Tsiotsiopoulos), and a short film that was taken during the ceremony at Cape Recife on 5 and 6 May 2017, will be on view.

The artist, and initiator of the project, Dr Magda Minguzzi, and the KhoiSan Chiefs involved with the project will be present at the opening.

The theme of conservation of, and respect for, water as source of life and sustenance is particularly relevant and topical, especially in the Karoo.

The Graaff-Reinet Museum has expressed enthusiasm about their participation in this significant collaboration. The Museum considers the exhibition meaningful as it tangibly addresses the practice of oral and ritual culture which has relevance to a large portion of the local population and provides an excellent platform to advance the museum’s transformation objectives whilst filling the void that exists in its portrayal of heritage and history.

Magda Minguzzi

Contact information
Mr Jean-Pierre Basson
Tel: 0415042244