“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?


Concept: Julian Hetzel and Ntando Cele
Direction: Julian Hetzel
Performance: Ntando Cele
Dramaturgy: Miguel Angel Melgares
Artistic advisor: Sodja Lotker, Khanyisile Mbongwa
Music & composition: Frank Wienk
Light design: Nico de Rooij
Technical coordination: Cesco van der Zwaag, Martijn van Nunen, Bea Verbeek
Technicians: Simon Kelaita, 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 assistant: Jana Riese
Assistant costume designer: Merel van Erpers Roijaards
Mask artist: Carly Heathcote
Make-up artist: Julia Markow
Prop maker: Saskia Hartog
Video documentation: Reynold Reynolds, Bongeka Ngcobo
Photography: Alexandra Masmanidi, Anouk Maupu

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