Fusing traditional storytelling, Indian classical dance and physical theatre, What The Water Gave Me explores the roots of Java slave history in an attempt to manifest the author's own struggle toward identity.
'What the Water Gave Me is about my connection with the Mothercity, Cape Town and thus intimately connected with my relationship to the Sea. Cape Town is on a peninsula surrounded by Ocean, the Atlantic on one side and the Indian on the other. The Indian Ocean is particularly meaningful for me and not just because the non-white beach was there, but because it carried stories of where we came from. I grew up different within, in a Cape Malay (Muslim) community with a mother from outside (Johannesburg, Christian). Apart from being not white or black, I was different from the other Coloured kids and different from the other Malay kids. My family was reeling from the ‘forced removals’ fracturing of their traditional extended family structures for most of my childhood. The geography I inhabited was one of fissures, fractures, cracks like my grandmother’s body, scarred with the many keloids of open-heart surgery. My grandmother, Gawa Arend, held the stories of Cape Town for me. She told me Bawa Mera, Bawa Puti, which I later discovered was an old Javanese story Bawang Mera, Bawang Puti (Onion and Garlic). She told me that her people had come from the East, non-specific, mythic Java, Indian Ocean and Ships. I believe that theatre can actively be used for healing. With this work, I put those beliefs to the test using my experiences of ritual and what I found to be common – the creation of sacred space, the invocation of the directions/elements and the closure or release at the end. I also attempted to work directly with my ancestors (particularly my grandmother) and began practically exploring Southern African shamanic techniques during this time. Faced with the gruesome realities of sexual violence and abuse, especially against girlchildren and the constant awareness of violence in South Africa, this seemed the most potent means at my disposal. In Africa, these practises are not ‘New Age’, they are continuous, ‘Age’-less techniques for the restoring of psyche amongst other things. They are effective. The associations of water with healing, sexuality, fecundity, release and purification were called on to effect a process using the performer’s body as point of contact/interdimensional interface/channel. It aimed to connect outward to the audience and community and inward to cellular memory and ancestral line.' – Rehane Abrahams