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Tuesday, May 23, 2023



(Above Mussel organ close-up 2, Stef Veldhuis 2023)

A quite extraordinary audio / sensory art installation, entitled Heavy Waters (dubbed “The Mussel Organ”) is on show in the Bond Shed on Point opening to the public on Wednesday June 7 and running until June 10, as a companion initiative to the #cocreateMyCity conference on urban water challenges, hosted by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in South Africa. 

The Dutch Embassy has invited conceptual composer, multi-media and audio artist, Stef Veldhuis, from Utrecht in The Netherlands to create a piece in Durban. The project is a sound installation of organ pipes connected to a living mussel living off uShaka pier.

Veldhuis, working closely with the Oceanographic Research Institute (ORI) at SeaWorld, is creating audio art informed by the vibrations emanating from a living mussel.

"We are very excited about this captivating fusion of science and art. Creating awareness around the marine environment, conservation and climate action requires the interpretation of scientific data, and harnessing the power of music, generated by the activities of mussels in their natural habitat, will evoke a sense of curiosity and fascination. Using the sound of mussels could very well inspire people to be more nature connected," said Maryke Musson, Executive Manager South African Association for Marine Biological Research / SAAMBR.

The mussel monitoring site will be hosted by ORI at SeaWorld. Without being harmed or compromised in any way, a mussel, living in its natural environment in the Durban Ocean will have very delicate sensors attached to it. The data from the sensors will be translated into sound through a series of 16 bespoke organ pipes in glass lungs, allowing visitors to literally “hear” the mussel.

Veldhuis explains: “I create art that provides spaces for deep listening to more-than-human perspectives on the world we share. The artworks are meditative explorations of natural phenomena that exist beyond human perception. The aim is to direct viewers to a different way of engaging with the eco system of the sea and promote the use of art to communicate science.”

Jessica Glendinning, Cultural Policy Officer at the Dutch Embassy, says: “Scientists often struggle to convey information to the broader public. They are in need of 'social translators' to put ideas and information across. This, we feel, is the role of the artist. To communicate complex ideas to their audience. We want to give viewers a new way of looking at the ecosystems we exist in. Ocean ecosystems around the world are under threat through human impact, particularly in areas such as Durban but many people do not notice this because they can't see 'below the surface' of the ocean.”

Durban has a significant problem with water quality. Scientist Katja Phillipart sees the mussel as a canary in a coal mine, because they can detect potentially dangerous water pollution faster than most man-made instruments. Thus, tuning in to the animal’s behaviour gives a very clear overview of the state of its surroundings.

The Mussel Organ investigates the state of Durban’s coastal systems through the perception of one single mussel. Being filter feeders, these animals have an intimate connection with the waters they call home. By constantly inhaling and exhaling the salty water of the Durban coast, these organisms can often detect pollutants faster than man-made instruments do. By listening to the soundscape derived from this more-than-human-animal’s behaviour, we gain a new perspective on the ecosystems we are a part of.

Heavy Waters / “The Mussel Organ” is a project #cocreateMyCity which brings together Dutch and South African experts to discuss urban challenges. The 2023 iteration takes place in Durban and focuses on urban water challenges. They take place alongside the Wetskills Water Challenge - a two-weeks pressure-cooker intergenerational programme for students and young professionals with a passion for Water, Climate and Sustainability. Teams from South Africa and the Netherlands will work in transdisciplinary and transcultural teams on challenging water cases. Westskills is an Independent Foundation based in the Netherlands and is part of the Human Capital Agenda of the Dutch water sector.

Heavy Waters / “The Mussel Organ” is being hosted at the Bond Shed, 12 Browns Road, Point. 

It runs from June 7 to 10. Opening times: 07h30 to 15h00 Wednesday to Friday, and 09h00 to 15h00 on Saturday.

Artist Walkabouts available on request

Entry is free and all are welcome.

Throughout the exhibition, anyone can check in on the mussel’s behaviour which will be broadcast at