(words and photos: Simon Max Bannister)
Ashes to ashes, in the dust we trust.
The Temple is dedicated to the process of transfiguration, to life and to love. It is for those that need sacred solace, those that search for a reverence in the revelry of the festival and in the emerging nature of our diverse culture.
These are some words on my experiences and learnings of planning, building and holding the Temple space. This is the third year I have envisioned and project led the creation of the Temple, a great honour and undertaking.
After the Clan is ashes, on the final night of the festival everyone gathers together for the last time. With reverence, the Temple is lit, burning all the photographs, letters and inscribed messages within. We watch it burn in silence, the powerful accumulated energy transfigured before our eyes. Embers rise to meet their ancestors and the ring of warm glowing faces are at peace. The next morning we sweep away the ashes and it is done. It speaks to an ancient cathartic calling and a much needed means of release.
The Tankwa Karoo is a wild and cryptic landscape, older than time, the earth itself is scorched and baked. It is a desolate wilderness of hardened life and shy fractured beauty. The work should try and reflect this. If the structure connects to the landscape and feels part of it, the connection is more rooted.
The sculpture should draw you in like an oasis in the day and a warm fire at night. The night offers mystery, and the interplay of light and shadow. The flame befriends the darkness and so there should be a place for fire, for this, is the totem spirit of the festival incarnate. As the scale is so large, the artwork has architecture. It has to allow you to enter a space within a space, and once inside, the intention must be clear to make personal offerings for sorrow, prayers of gratitude and quiet moments of introspection. The structure retains the emotion of its creation and will accumulate its visitors energy too. During the festival words are scrawled on the walls, messages and photos are tucked into the cracks, creating a silent powerful sense of reverence.
A small crew of 7 talented, reliable and charismatic individuals make for a solid, enjoyable rig. We flat-pack 2 tons of timber onto a rented truck and load 2 bakkies with tools and supplies for a 12 day adventure. With 5 days to build the pressure is on. Targets are set for each day. We keep our sense of humour, remaining collected and sober in the construction, moving easily with the challenges, staying with the vision. We are at work by sunrise as the mind is clear and the sun is cool. By 1pm its time to get a drink and find some shade – there’s a reason why the rocks look like molten iron. Late afternoon offers some wonderful day-dreaming, exploring and discoveries.
Always think aerodynamically and triangulated when its comes to structural strength. Stay anchored, streamlined and close to the ground as the wind blows like a demon out there. I have found the triangular facet as a strong theme in Solace and Compression. The form relates to the ancient fractures in the rocks, the hand axe, the arrow point and the apex of the flame. I have also used references to historic gatherings, temples, cathedrals, shrines, and natural formations that are remixed and aligned. The two previous sculptures evolved this language. They were called Solace (in 2012) and Compression (in 2013).
Solace aligned with the setting sun, a reference to the death of the day. Its double doorway had an arching apex to it that embodied the single flame of a candle. As the sun edged toward the horizon the structure felt like a rocky outcrop with light bursting through it. With two coves on either side, visitors could find their solace.
Compression was inspired by a combination of the reams of slate rock that are pushed together in the Tankwa landscape, creating fascinating patterns of sharp flowing lines. It felt like the work was emerging from the earth like abstract crystals. These facets aligned with a central fireplace that was kept burning through the festival, eventually lighting the entire structure. One could venture inside the larger spires to experience the cave-like sensation of Solace.
The Offering is a combination of these two sculptures. As a singular space with one entrance and exit I wish to focus the visitors interaction with the space allowing quiet reflection in a defined sacred enclosed space. I am honoured to build the temple for the third and final time at this years burn. The offering is a combination of all my experience and devotion to the flame. To see the plans and gift to the work, please go to the website: www.firesculpture.net.
I wish to see you in the Tankwa and share the burn with you. I believe that AfrikaBurn endeavours to deepen the collective creative journey in a truly wonderful way. To participate as an artist and let your work go is what it’s really all about.
Ashes to ashes, in the dust we trust.
Simon Max Bannister