Example to Follow!
Our work began in 2010 with an installation in the Uferhallen as part of the exhibition „Examples to follow!“. We built a river water filter system for the nearby river Panke. .
The idea was that the visitor draw the water by himself and fills it into the filter. There the water was purified until it was drinkable. The different levels of filtering were visible. As a parallel to the filtering of the water the visitor could let his own thoughts be influenced by the sound of the flowing Panke in a sound installation. Many visitors drank the water purified by themselves.. We, Anja Schoeller und Kerstin Polzin from „zwischenbericht“ were invited to Addis Abeba (in Ethiopia) from 19.October until 20. November 2011 to re- develop our work „Berliner Schöpfung“ there. The conditions in Africa are so much different from the ones in Germany.
„Clean Water Bar“
In Addis we had a cooperation with the Ethiopian artist Mulugeta Gebrekidan. We jointly developed the concept for the Clean Water Bar, a mobile platform which is positioned directly in the river. On this platform , we planned to have an artistic discourse about the topic “water “with the African population . Our research project started with a trip to the source of the river Akaki and then along the Kechene up to its source at Mount Entoto. We took water samples at six selected places and had them tested by the local environmental agency. The results were alarming.
The place we chose for our campaign is right in the center of the five million city Addis Abeba between a park and informal settlements or slums and the houses of the upper class. Vegetables are grown close to the river. It could be paradise.The river is used as a waste water system. In fact, the river serves as a means for disposal of household waste, for washing clothes and for fecies but also for watering the nearby farmland. It became clear, that for a lot of people living alongside the rivers in Addis, there are apparently no other means of cleaning and treatment and handling of waste .For a short time the location should be a place for creative engagement and discussion. Here, people should involve themselves into debates about their environment and the open questions regarding water.
The actions began with a cleaning performance but of course it was not poss ible to entirely clean the whole place. Our intention was the gesture of cleaning.
After difficult negotiations, the mobile platform for the painting session finally stood in the river for the first time. People painted their ideas and wishes concerning water and the river on white wooden panels. The painting session was a big success, people were enthusiastic about it. We discovered real talents among the participants. In the paintings they primarily expressed their positive ideas about the creation of their environment and habitat.
The next day, we celebrated an exhibition on the banks next to the platform. A completely dirty site turns into an exclusive place of art. On the platform, fresh water was offered.
The following day, the platform was transformed into a public speaking forum. In addition to the residents, we had invited the water expert Günther Quentin. He gave a very clearly and informative introduction concerning the concrete situation of the current pollution of urban rivers. Here you can see the different water samples. The residents complained about the actual state of economy and politics in a heated discussion. Disappointment and incapacity of individuals to gain access to clean water is the result of the lack of attention and creativity shown by local politics. Specific measures are required.. The discussion was accompanied by a traditional coffee ceremony, but a lot of clear water was served as well. The Clean Water Bar was a permanent offer to drink fresh water on the platform. Even if the water still stem from the supermarket: our intention for the future was the vision of clean water being available one day in this waste contaminated place .
Drama/Dance/Performance/ Messenger of Water
The singing and dancing of children and young people was a contribution to our final celebration day. Spontaneously, eight boys from the district Kebena performed a theatre play about the garbage problem. Mulugeta Gebrekidan presented a performance. Covered with garbage, he personified the river as a „messenger of Water“. His act visualized the cleaning power of water. Applause and a dance- and sing along brought the event to the end.
Opening Goethe Institute
Finally we were able to express our gratitude to several families from the community by presenting them a family portrait as a gift. We also shot a documentary film which was shown in a small cinema in the settlement. For us it is important to use these artistic strategies and instruments to create an initiative which motivates people to arrange and influence their personal environment in a sustainable way. We wish the people thecourage to act.
We would like to thank Adrienne Goehler, the curator of „example to follow“ and Patrick Berg, the director of the Heinrich Boell Foundation in Addis Ababa.