I was driving to see my grandfather when he called to say that my cow had given birth, but had retained the placenta. I had to find leaves to grind into a gel for the cow to drink. Physically pulling the placenta out causes the animal pain. On my way, I came across barrels covered with cloth to protect them from cows and dust.
Roadside barrels are common in my community. They are too heavy to be carried, so are left on the roadside. My community relies on water trucks that deliver once a week. Over the years, people bought buckets, because the more containers you have, the more water you can store.
A lot of water is needed to mix concrete, for those who want to build or extend a house. These people request truck drivers to deliver water into their Jojo tanks for a fee.
These circumstances inspired my image. Bathandwa Lerato, the model in the picture, is covered in a way similar to the barrels. In turn, the cloth-covered barrels look like women in mourning. I use feminine tropes because it is mostly women who fetch water. The darkness of the image portrays the pain of the people who are excluded from the tap-water system. The injustice and corruption causes grief, because some receive water once a week, while others have water 24/7. This water-truck service in a developing country such as South Africa marks the death of dignity in rural areas. According to Statistics South Africa’s General Household Survey 2019, an estimated 44.9% of South Africans had access to piped water. The survey does not report on broken water infrastructure, which invalidates the statistic.
My cow’s placenta came out after I mixed the gel from the leaves with water from a bottle. Water plays such an important role; it is what we use to keep us alive, clean, sheltered and healed.
Thobani K is a photography participant in the ARTLAB Durban mentorship programme, which is funded by the National Arts Council and hosted at Open Plan Studio. www.artlabdurban.co.za