AfrikaBurn 2023: 24 to 30 April

The Hammer Falls

Words and pics: H

The DPW Retirement clubs brings Tankwa Town an (official processes followed) artwork to commemorate the last DPW Burn on Stonehenge.
DPW Burn? You mean like when their kitchen burned down in 2013?
Ha (traumatic giggle) no, while that was the last time DPW burned something during the event – the DPW Burn is something completely different. And you can be forgiven if you’ve never heard of it; that’s kind of the point…
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Every year, at the end of a seasons spent building, maintaining and breaking down the foundations and public infrastructure of (y)our town, DPW hosts one last burn. The remaining crew, many of whom by then have been on site for close to two months, build an ‘artwork’ from all the burnable things that no longer serve their purpose (or are too much of a hassle to get off site). The burn itself is the last time this weird little family celebrate together before most of them depart – leaving behind a few bittereinders to pack up the kitchen, the last shade and finally the last toilet.
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This year, 2020,  the post-event stint poses a whole new challenge to the crew – not only do they have to pack a town into boxes and containers (and tackle the post-event Leave No Trace tasks); they also have to move everything to our new site, Quaggafontein, many dirt road kilometers away and store it in a new unknown environment. It was with this daunting thought in mind that The Hammer Council approached me to see if I would wrangle a few ‘old timers’ to take the task of building a burn and throwing an epic party off their hands. Building something and planning my post favourite party, without the weight of accountability and responsibilities of herding DPW? Hell YES! So I hastily submitted a very basic concept into the (soon closing) art grant application process.
I guess Art Comm trusts us, because here we are – a group of people who have spent uncountable days (although I estimate I spent around 270 days on site between 2013-18…) watching the sun and moon rise over the vast horizon – pulling together once more. To pay tribute – not only to the crew of weirdos who will build the town this year; or to ourselves and what we’ve achieved out there in the past (in every possible combination of every weather element you can ever imagine) but to a place. A place that broke us and built us up, stronger every time. To The Org; the Operations team; the founders and members past and present; to the directors and to you – the residents that give us the reason (and privilege) to build this most amazing town.

That’s my introduction… I am planning a few more posts to introduce you to the artwork and its simple symbolism; to the unique flavor of chaos you can expect if you find yourself at this particular burn; the legends that are coming together from all over the world to make it happen and some of their favourite stories and memories from living in the desert for “which day is it again?”. I hope you’ll enjoy going on this trip down a foggy memory lane with me.
p.s: to raise The Hammer will take time, materials and cash money. Please help us to get this beast of a piece up, for all to enjoy – support us here, thanks.
(Helena aka H spent six years on our Department of Public Works crew, and for five of those coordinated some aspect of building a temporary town in the literal middle of nowhere.)
To find out more about this project – which is funded by your ticket money – check out the Creative Grant Recipient Projects list for 2020.

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