The Power of Water
In the heart of Hamburg’s St. Pauli district is the Millerntor Stadium, home to the St. Pauli football club. Come summertime when the team is resting, art takes over the stadium. And furthermore, art with a serious purpose and a huge sense of fun!
The Millerntor Stadium transforms into the Millerntor Gallery. During four artistically inspiring days, artists, musicians and other creatives come together to generate donations for essential clean drinking water and sanitation projects. The stadium comes alive with paintings, sculpture, video art, murals, illustrations, digital art, musicians, poets, comedians, DJs, dancers and activists. The charity Viva con Agua is behind this phenomenon, transforming art donations into water projects. This uplifting event is also an open platform for dialogue and exchange. Works of art of all genres as well as a diverse music, cultural and educational programmes show how everyone can positively shape the world. Last year’s event celebrated 10 years of collectivist activism and collaboration and was dedicated to the theme of FLUXUS–together we flow. The next Millerntor Gallery takes place from 13 to 16 July, 2023 and the theme is Making Waves–The Power of Water.
Viva con Agua’s directress, Agnes Fritz explains, “There are three clusters of thought behind the new theme. First is the power of water in regard to climate change. Water is our big power source and we look at water cycles and how water really moves on the planet. Secondly, we look into the bad side of the fight for water and the wars it creates when countries and people don’t have access. And finally, we will be looking at the spiritual side of water. Its elemental part. The forms of water. How it sounds and how it looks."
In 2022, Millerntor Gallery had 43 mural artists participating, curated by Hera, one of the biggest street artists in Germany. Fritz says, “We are sending out a call for applications over the winter for artists to take part in next summer’s event. We also go and seek out artists, and also have a family of artists who have helped us create the gallery over the last 10 years.” When works are sold at the event, 45% goes to the artist, 45% goes to the water charity Viva con Agua, and the rest is a handling fee. Some artists donate 100% of their art for free. As Fritz says, “We’re not only supporting the WASH (an abbreviation for water, sanitation and hygiene) projects, but we’re also supporting art and artists. During the 2022 Millerntor Gallery, roughly €100,000 went back to the artists, which we are very pleased about.”
At the 2023 event, the entrance fee will be €19 per person because the Millerntor Stadium and football club was founded in the year 1910. Yet Fritz is keen to point out that the event is inclusive. As she says, “People who genuinely can’t afford to come in can say, ‘Hey, I can’t pay that!’ and we will welcome them. We also invite refugee groups and student groups from marginalised areas. We are trying to integrate everyone. We are saying everyone can come.”
13-16 July, 2023
Projects that benefit from Viva con Agua
In Ethiopia, Viva con Agua supports water infrastructure projects, and has been constructing boreholes and water wells for many years. Fritz says, “We were also able to buy a drilling machine as we had a large donation from a person in Hamburg whose last wish was to support water projects. We are able to send the drill to many other communities in the North of Ethiopia too. An English artist called David Shillinglaw painted it for us!”
In the Eastern Cape, Viva con Agua works in an area that’s socially marginalised due to the apartheid system and the low infrastructure. Fritz explains, “We are supporting with sanitation projects like building toilets and integrating toilets in public spaces such as schools. As well as building, we usually have training and workshops about how to handle a water borehole, how to clean your hands, how to handle the toilets, how not to waste water, and how to separate the black water from the clean water. In South Africa they have access to clean drinking water, but they lack sanitation, so we’re focusing on this.”
In Uganda, Viva con Agua supports a lot of rural projects but also in the urban area of Kampala. “Sometimes there are big public schools where there is no access to clean drinking water, and no toilets,” says Fritz. “We work with the government and the local school district officers to implement an integrated the WASH approach, including a menstrual hygiene component. For girls who are menstruating, it's essential to have school toilets that can be locked, and for everyone to know that this is something normal and not something dirty.”