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Bath House

I take bathing for granted. Witnessing a simple, every day ritual, of someone, a body bathing, on a roof top, in the mid day sun, from a bucket and an orange plastic water jug, makes me wonder how and to what degree I call myself a South African.

Having lived 19 floors up in the middle of downtown Johannesburg for 4 years
I have become accustomed to and yet continually amazed by the unique dichotomy that is Johannesburg.

This photo, like the plastic bag caught in barbed wire, represents, so concisely, my bitter-sweet love for my city.

The beauty, for me, is in the narrative. The simple complexity and unsaid order of things:
the way, usually on Sundays, men stand queue, up a fire escape stair case, in an abandoned building,
taking turns to carry 20L buckets of water up sum 14 floors, to communally feed
the bather of the moment a “bath”, while hanging up their washing.

And then the ritual becomes complete community and, in this case, a male bonding
model of warmth and conviviality.

The irony of it being a “beautiful ritual” becomes clear when walking on the streets below –
drains are overflowing with the gradual seepage onto the streets of grey sweet/sour
sweat smells from the un-channeled used up water.

It is a beautiful ritual, without the aid of an aqueduct.

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