Change the world

Nelson Mandela University project by Dr. Magda Minguzzi©  in collaboration with Chiefs Margaret Coetzee and Chief Xam ≠ Gaob Maleiba as coordinator of the KhoiSan community of the Eastern Cape.

The art project “Spirit of the water” presented at the Cape Recife Nature Reserve (Port Elizabeth, South Africa) on the 05th and 06th of May 2017 was part of an international event “The way of water” that took place contextually, at the same time, in different coastal cities:  Brooklyn (US), Ouidah (BEN), Port Elizabeth (RSA), San Luis Potosí (MEX), Venice (IT), Zadar (HRV).

In the different coastal cities artists in collaboration with local communities developed different performances under the same investigatory theme:

“What is our role in maintaining necessary conditions for life on our planet: specifically in respect of water as our principal source of life?”

The scope of the artistic project was to draw attention to fragile marine environments, threatened by pollution, excessive fishing, and encroaching human development and industry.

The performances where filmed and documented with photos to be projected and displayed internationally in art galleries and universities.

In Port Elizabeth the performance, rooted on the heritage and cultural re appropriation, took place at the fish traps in the Cape Recife Nature Reserve which are sacred places to the KhoiSan. These traps are the most ancient man-made structures (middle stone age) present in the area and were constructed by the Strandlopers (pre-colonial hunter-gatherer communities) living on the cost of Southern Africa at the time and are highly significant in terms of heritage.

The representatives of the KhoiSan people (as descendants of the Strandlopers) practiced ancient rituals, such as the “cleansing ceremony”, in view of the ocean where traces of the ancient fish traps are still visible. The performance was a metaphorical act (related to identity and culture) that connects our contemporary reality (pollution, exploitation of the sea) with a time in the past when human beings were in harmony with Mother Earth and the sea.

These rituals were accompanied by the making of a fire, an ancestral symbol of gathering and meeting.

The participants were representatives form the KhoiSan communities and individuals that have an interest in the ocean and that feel the urgency to preserve and restore it and also to re-connect with Mother Earth as in the past.

Currently the fish trap are mostly unknown, even if very accessible and near to the city, and not declared heritage site.

We hope that this project helped to move the attention to the relevant institutions and the general public.

The project was realized with the support of:

Nelson Mandela University Engagement Advancement Fund (Eaf) 2017,

Communication & Stakeholder Liaison and Department of Arts and Culture of NMU,


Nelson Mandela Bay Arts Culture Heritage Department and Municipality,

Pine Lodge.



“The Spirit of water” by Magda Miguzzi

Nelson Mandela University production, 2017


2017. Nelson Mandela University, Nelson Mandela Bay, Pre-colonial Catalytic Conference15 -17 March 2017, CANRAD NMMU-CAS UCT-National Institute for the Humanities and Social Science. Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. Dr Magda Minguzzi: “The Identity of Places: a Reflection on the KhoiKhoi Culture”.

2017. University Iuav in Venice. Invitation to be part of the two days of convention “Iuav abroad: heritage”. Dr Magda Minguzzi:  “The signs of the history as origin for the design: the sacred sites of the KhoiSan People of South Africa” and projection of my short film “The Spirit of water”. (6/7 Nov)

2018. Nelson Mandela University, 14 September, Senate Hall, presentation of my project “The Spirit of water” during the conference of Prof. Ariel Salleh (University of Sydney) “Rethinking climate and water politics together”.

2018. Nelson Mandela University, SAHUDA-NIHSS Conference, 18-19 October, Second Ave. Campus, South Africa Leading the Arts and Humanities in a Connected World. Presentation of my project “The Spirit of water” and the research on pre colonial sites.

Video interview  about the art perfomance:

2017. Video interview by Dr. Sarah Filding, Digital Learning, iSolutions, University of Southampton

The interview became part of the digital learning program of the University of Southampton (UK).

2018. 06. Video interview by Basharat Khan, in occasion of Happenstance, Scottland+Venice, Biennale of Venice, Italy.

National and international Exibitions and projection of the short film/video:

New York

23rd September till 15th October 2017

Hot Wood Arts, 481 Van Brunt St. Brooklyn, NY.

Port Elizabeth

27th September till 30th November 2017

Nelson Mandela Art Museum, 1 Park Drive,

in celebration of the Heritage month


27th of September until 1st October


San Luis Potosi, Mexico

9th of November 2017

gallery vega m57,

Real de Catorce, San Luis Potosi.

Mexico City

23rd November 2017

Universidad Nacional Autonoma, Centro de Ciencias de la Complejidad

Venice, Italy

7th November 2017

Fabbrica del vedere,

Graaff-Reinet, South Africa

22 February/22 June 2018.

Graaff Reinet old library Museum


20 June

Le Centre,Arts and Culture

Venice, Italy

21 of June

International Biennale of Venice, Architecture, Scottish pavilion


2018. Nelson Mandela University, received the 18. Engagement Excellence Award as team leader for the project “The Spirit of water”.

2018. Nelson Mandela University, received the 18. Performing and creative Arts Award for the project “The Spirit of water”.

Magda Minguzzi Short Bio: I am an Artist and Architect (PHD architecture composition from the University Iuav Venice, IT), Senior lecturer and responsible for the PHD programme at the Nelson Mandela University School of Architecture since 2012. My collaboration with the First Indigenous People in Eastern Cape have been started since 2014 with my research on pre colonial indigenous heritage sites and landscape, and “The Spirit of water” art project is the first output of this intense relationship.

FOR INFO or ©:

Photo by: Marco Fabbri

Photo by: Alexi Tsiotsiopolous