The buchu fountain (a roaming memorial)

Between the 21st of January and the 13th of March 2010 we were invited to conduct a three-week research residency in Cape Town. ‘The naming and claiming of space’ began by investigating the way in which locations in Cape Town have been repeatedly renamed, revealing historic and contemporary demographics of power, culture and segregation, before looking in more detail at the lack of conventionally mapped references to Cape Town’s indigenous heritage. The residency culminated in a series of site-specific interventions and events that took place during the Infecting the City festival.

Activity #2: The buchu fountain

Documents have been found suggesting that indigenous inhabitants of the Western Cape provided sailors with the medicinal herbal infusion known as ‘buchu water’, to cure them of their ills after many months at sea. In remembrance of this a portable ‘buchu fountain’ was wheeled through Cape Town, a temporary roaming memorial and an act of reconciliation to/for the indigenous people of the Western Cape. The fountain took the form of a modern water dispenser that had been filled with fresh buchu water and strapped to a beer trolley. Pedestrians were free to help themselves to the medicinal infusion. Bradley van Sitters, Garlic Brown and AFA Negus performed the intervention, with Zinzile Nannan documenting the proceedings.

The intervention was certainly a success in terms of reaching a large and varied audience (about 750 people drank from the fountain), but we would have liked it if there had been more variation in the way the memorial was presented to the public. The team chose to stay with the fountain at all times, directly engaging with their audience. We had hoped that there would also be times when the fountain would simply be placed in position and observed from a distance, allowing pedestrians the space to interact with the monument on their own terms; A more subtle approach that uses the fountain as a catalyst for reflection, subverting existing narratives and relationships within the space, and preferring to leave some questions unanswered.

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Susanne Kudielka and Kaspar Wimberley work internationally as interventionists and performance researchers specialising in site-specific and site-responsive art, alternative strategies for audience interaction and new forms of artistic collaboration.

The artistic process usually begins with a given site, and a process of observation and dialogue that analyses, and eventually responds, to the architectural, socio-political, geographical, mythological, connotative and historical narratives that can be found there.

Projects are quietly subversive, playfully readjusting the narrative and appreciation of a particular activity or a given site. The working process often involves those that live in an area, and aims to be accessible and relevant.

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