In the Bitter Water Series, I have interwoven images from The Vaal River area in South Africa with images of fishers and acrobats from Bugigali Falls near the head of the White Nile River in Uganda along with images from the Nile River in Cairo. While seemingly disparate, a delicate web of reciprocity interweaves complex ecosystems and cultures, marked by rivers, roads, farms, villages and cities and a few road signs along the way, suggesting the migratory patterns, and the socio-economic ebb and flow of human migratory patterns in syncopation with nature.
We are all connected by hidden systems in ways we have still yet to fully understand and the issues of climate change and environmental degradation effect all of in ways we hope to better understand and take action upon by looking for and connecting the hidden patterns.
Interweave Bitterwater: The Vaal Dam
The Upper Vaal River is situated in the economic heartland of South Africa, supporting more than 12 million people living in the region.
The Klip Rive wetland which protects the regions water supply and the reed basin which filters pollutants is in danger for many reasons. The basin is severely compromised as a result of draining for conversion to intensive agricultural production. Canals dug throughout the area to supply water for farming are downstream of sewage treatment works and facilitate sewage overflow into the area which regularly overflows and seeps in local townships around Sasolberg . Acid mine drainage from abandoned mines in the Johannesburg area contribute to the pollution in the area and pollutants seep through water soluble limestone karsks, which effect groundwater as far away as neighbouring Botswana. The oil refinery upstream from the Vaal Dam is responsible for air and water pollution, causing respiratory health effects for the people in the area.
South Africa is a water stressed nation, and they embarked on a trans-boundary water project with the small mountainous, impoverished, but water rich country of Lesotho. The construction of a number of dam projects has impacted self-sustenance communities, both upstream and downstream by reducing arable farm and grazing land, causing forced resettlement and food insecurity.
The consequence of longing and taking unabashed for the water is often bittersweet, and recognizing the interconnectivity of upstream consequences on downstream activities is the first step in transforming bitter water .