On establishing that we wanted to base our project on the current drought crisis in South Africa, Soninke and myself both agreed that we needed to incorporate the stories of local voices. Racking our brains on how exactly we were going to do that, I started asking around and discovered I in fact had a really great lead to interview local, subsistence farmers in Muden, KZN. My mother’s partner organizes a yearly navigational endurance race, Valley to Valley, that takes riders through challenging terrains. In order for him to successfully organize the event, Roger has to get the permission from local community headsman to have a mass of motorbikes travel through their lands. Fortunately, this local community is thrilled with the event and look forward to it every year. As the event grows from strength to strength every year, Roger has established a great relationship with the local community and this has lead me having the opportunity to interview them for this project.
Muden, the area in question, is a township on the Mooi River, 24 km northwest of Greytown and 38 km southeast of Weenen. As it stands, it has undeniably been hit by a drought. This was evident everywhere I looked as I travelled with Roger and Cole, my translator, in the Land Rover. Among the rocky terrain, the only flora that seemed to be surviving was hardy, extremely water wise vegetation such as aloe and cacti.
The road was extremely dusty as we ascended up into the hills of Muden. I gave up with the idea of keeping the film of brown dust off my skin, as it seemed to filter through every available opening into the Land Rover. As we travelled to the first member of the community that we were going to interview, Roger stopped along the way so that I could capture a few images of a dried up river bed, a dried up circular concrete dam, a small huddle of cattle and the vast dry landscape from a higher vantage point. As I captured these images, he proceeded to place a few markers for his upcoming endurance event.
The first individual we were to interview was very surprised to see us. My translator explained to him in Zulu why I was there and why I wanted to interview him and he eagerly obliged. He organized a seat next to his water containers and I proceeded to ask him a number of questions that Soninke and myself had compiled. After our interview, he showed me around his homestead and introduced me to his wife that was sitting in the shade of their hut while she re-beaded a part of her apparel.
The second individual that we set off to interview was a well-respected elder in the community. On arrival at his homestead, I couldn’t help but marvel at the size of it and the amount of children running around. It was a small community all of its own. We asked around and we were advised that he was currently attending to some crops that he had. So we walked to the outskirts of his homestead shouting his name until we finally found him accompanied by his pack of Africanis dogs.
He first showed us his maize plantation and I thought to interview him amongst the plants, but the wind caused the plants to be too noisy which interrupted the recording on the mic. So we moved the interview into the dried-up riverbed close to his homestead. As we conducted the interview, all of his grandchildren peered curiously down at us from the top of the banks.
After the interview, we walked back to the Land Rover and noticed the water truck about to leave after delivering the weekly ration of water. This really emphasized the fact why I was there as part of this project.
I was utterly exhausted as we left the hills of Muden. It was still a long drive back to Greytown where Roger had some work to attend to and then back to Balgowan. In total, it was a day with a lot of driving.
Washing off the film of dust from my skin in the shower that evening, I couldn’t help but be utterly thankful for the free flowing water that streamed from the taps.