Studio Julian Hetzel & Ntando Cele
Thu 16 Nov ’23 - Sat 18 Nov ’23
The empathic powers of African water.
Thu 16 Nov ’23
Sat 18 Nov ’23

SPAfrica is a performance about empathy and extractivism. A project that explores how capitalism is connected to racism. Julian Hetzel and Ntando Cele join forces to explore the limits of empathy – the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing. What if empathy doesn’t change or overcome power structures but reinforces existing privileges? SPAfrica reveals the problematic mechanisms and hidden racism of its working.

SPAfrica introduces a two-fold gesture about extracting ‘liquid empathy’ and builds upon the transaction of resources between Europe and Africa – water for tears and tears for water. On the one hand, drinking water from the sub-Saharan regions is imported into Europe: SPAfrica – the world’s first ’empathy drink’. On the other hand, tears are farmed at the heart of Europe and transferred to the source of the water in Africa. The project juxtaposes the exploitation of natural and emotional resources, exposing neoliberal strategies in the search for alternative raw materials.

In their new creation, Hetzel and Cele question how intangible assets such as identity and cultural background are capitalised on. In the international art market, the cultural background and the identity of the protagonists have become valuable resources for value creation. Is trauma the new gold of the arts?

SPAfrica reading sessions: The Elephant in the Room

Studio Julian Hetzel and Frascati/ Het Verbond invite you to a two-part reading session to delve deeper into some of the issues the new performance SPAfrica addresses. The reading group takes place on 17 and 18 November, 16:00 at Het Verbond (Nes 71). Teresa Borasino and Maarten van Hinte will be the hosts of the sessions. 

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SPAfrica installatieon: Tear Farm

To bring the topics discussed in SPAfrica to life, audiences can take the time to visit the Tear Farm. The art work proposes a symbolic exchange of resources and an ambiguous dialogue between liquids, to raise questions about empathy, agency, reparation and guilt. Water for tears, tears for water. Each “volun-tear” receives one bottle of SPAfrica – the world's first empathy drink – in exchange for their tears.

To participate, please book a timeslot in advance here.

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"The clever performance SPAfrica takes a closer look at white audiences’ empathy. "★★★★ de Volkskrant

"Reality catching up with art and then being sent back into its cage. Impressive."  Theaterkrant, Critic's Choice

About the makers

Julian Hetzel works as performance maker, musician and visual artist. He develops works along the intersection of theatre, music and media that have a political dimension and a documentary approach. He is artistic director of Studio Julian Hetzel, an Utrecht based organisation that realises and produces his artistic work. Hetzels creations are produced internationally. His work has been presented in more than 20 countries all around the world. In 2017 Hetzel received the VSCD-Mimeprijs for The Automated Sniper (by Frascati producties and Ism & Heit). In 2019 All Inclusive (by CAMPO and Ism & heit) was part of the official selection of the Nederlands Theaterfestival.

SELF by Julian Hetzel was the national entry of the Netherlands at the Prague Quadrennial 2019. In August 2019 Hetzel presented three works at the Venice Biennale del Teatro. Julian Hetzel is associated artist at Kunstencentrum CAMPO Gent (BE). Since 2021 Studio Julian Hetzel receives structural funding from Fonds Podiumkunsten (FPK) and the City of Utrecht.

Ntando Cele was born in South Africa and is based in Bern, Switserland. She studied acting in Durban and also attended DasArts in Amsterdam. Her work overturns the borders between Physical Theatre, video installation, concert and performance. She combines music, text and video to recreate her own identity on the stage.

concept Julian Hetzel and Ntando Cele direction Julian Hetzel performance Ntando Cele dramaturgy Miguel Angel Melgares music & composition Frank Wienk artistic advise Sodja Lotker, Khanyisile Mbongwa light design Nico de Rooij technical coordination Vincent Beune, Aengus Havinga technique Tom Doeven, Simon Kelaita, Bea Verbeek, Wout Jansen technical solutions Merijn Versnel, Guido Bevers production coordinator Marieke van den Bosch production Cape Town Lungile Mbongwa galerist Cape Town Mpilo Ngcukana production assistent Jana Riese assistent costume designer Merel van Erpers Roijaards mask artist Carly Heathcote make-up artist Julia Markow prop artist Saskia Hartog video documentation Reynold Reynolds, Bongeka Ngcobo photografiy Alexandra Masmanidi, Anouk Maupu production Studio Julian Hetzel

special thanks to the volunTEARS and the local hosts of the artist talk

co-produced by CAMPO Gent (BE), Theatre Vidy-Lausanne (CH), Schauspiel Leipzig (DE), SPRING Performing Arts Festival Utrecht (NL), Auawirleben Festival, Bern (CH) gesteund door Fonds Podiumkunsten, Gemeente Utrecht, Vriendenloterij fonds, Onassis AiR Athens (GR)