Near zero, 2018
Cape Town, South Africa, is the first major city in known world history that faces the possibility of running out of water. All factors indicate that the sprawling metropole’s taps may run dry in the near future. Should this happen, millions of residents will have to queue daily for rationed water at militarized collection points. This has become known as Day Zero.
The city primarily relies on rainfall for its water, in the form of six catchment dams in the Western Cape. Theewaterskloof, with a massive storage capacity of 480 million cubic meters, is the largest of these dams by a considerable margin; it is solely responsible for nearly half of Cape Town’s municipal water supply. Its current level stands at an unprecedented 10.6% – the lowest measurement of all the dams in the city’s dwindling storage system.
As the crisis intensified over the last few months, and dam levels continued to fall, I set out to photograph the haunting remnant of Cape Town’s primary reservoir. Treading lightly on the back of a broken giant, I never aimed to showcase the abundant horrors of drought and ecological devastation that has come to define Theewaterskloof in mainstream and social media of late. From the start, my lens was drawn to the sanctity, rather than the scarcity, of the bared blood that still runs through its veins: water.
Water is a divine substance. Without it, life in all its sacred forms would not exist.
Amidst the fear, confusion and political posturing surrounding the city’s water issue, I could not help but realise that this sense of its divinity has been lost.
By using long exposure photography, I tried to restore an element of ethereal beauty to this highly publicised and diminished body of water, without shying away from the harsh reality of its physical context. The contrasting result, I feel, is a much needed reminder of water’s transcendent nature.
Cape Town and Theewaterskloof’s destinies are tied. Heavy winter rains, still some months away, is the only viable means to end the threat of Day Zero occurring in 2018. Given the highly intermittent rainfall in the Western Cape over the last three years, the parched city’s fate hangs in precarious balance.
My hope is that the aesthetic element at the heart of this series will result in a heightened spiritual awareness. May it serve as some form of inspiration to not simply look up at the heavens, but deep within ourselves. Only from a heightened, unified understanding of the beauty and fragility of all Being can we hope to find meaningful, sustainable solutions to the intertwined challenges facing humanity and the planet as a whole.