“Ten is the very nature of number. All Greeks and all barbarians alike count up to ten, and having reached ten revert again to the unity.” – Aetius (376BC)
This year’s theme is X: the Roman numeral that signifies the number 10, and the letter X that represents an open signifier. It’s a time for both a backward reflection and an imagining of possibilities and futures. With the tenth incarnation of Tankwa Town in 2016, contemplate a decade of the evolution of AfrikaBurn; pay homage to what has been and to entertain the possibilities of what’s yet to come.
The number ten signifies the completion of a cycle. In the Tarot, ten is the wheel of fortune, which symbolises the beginning of a new cycle. In the Pythagorean tradition of exploring the beauty, symbolism and mysticism of numbers, the Decad suggests a new beginning of limitlessness. In mystical traditions, X stands for birth and death.
“Choose always the way that seems best however rough it may be. Custom will soon render it easy and agreeable” – Pythagoras
The letter X is the “certain something”, the “unknown quantity” of mathematics; it has been called mysterious, dangerous, scientific, intellectual, city slicker, and pagan. It holds a mystique, smacks of the strange, the alien and the exotic, the forbidden. It is the signature of the illiterate; it marks the spot where the treasure is buried. The X is powerful as a structural element. It indicates a vote, anonymity, invented or reclaimed identity, and sometimes denotes a former state (when last did you hear from your X?). We use the symbol to mark ballot boxes: the cross can mean angry but is also shorthand for a kiss. It’s a multiplier. It’s a magic symbol. It denotes both a crossroads and a confluence.
It is this algebraic sense of X, the blankness and flexibility, this unknown variable that invokes the essence of Tankwa Town, and what makes it work: a blank canvas. Tankwa Town has no specific meaning other than that which you impress upon it –this makes it a frontier of immense possibilities and potential.
“Imagine you are put upon a desert plain, a space that is so vast and blank that only your initiative can make of it a place. Imagine it is swept by fearsome winds and scorching temperatures, and only by your effort can you make of it a home. Imagine you’re surrounded by thousands of other people, that together you form a city, and that within this teeming city there is nothing that’s for sale. The Black Rock desert is an empty void….. It is a place that is no place at all apart from what we choose to make of it. The playa is like an enormous blank canvas. The desert is a blank slate.”
– Larry Harvey (2000)
Whether X stands for exoticism, taboo, or technological progress, it’s a reminder that Tankwa Town is made by you. Honour the builders who came before, upon whose creativity we stand. Let’s embrace the ever-constant drive for new and unexpected. We invite you to engage with this open thematic and participate in the new decade.
What does your X mean?
Onward to the eXperiment!
And of course, like any good theme, there’s a great poster to go with it. Check that out here.
How was the theme arrived at?
Different permutations of “ten” as a theme were proposed by: Tony Meintjies, Sam Pearce, Gerhard Gibbs, Karen Ensler and Bishop Loon. The title “X” was submitted by Anthea Fuller, and inspiration was taken from Jonathan Jubber’s “Generation” proposal. Theme development and words were contributed by Monique Schiess.
Here’s how the process works:
- A call for theme proposals is announced through our various channels (the newsletter,
Facebook and Twitter). This year no less than 254 submissions were received.
- All proposals are collated and have the proposers name’s taken off the document so as
to make it anonymous.
- Artcom convenes and discusses what we think AfrikaBurn “needs” as a rallying point in
the next round.
- We come to agreement on the look & feel.
- After that, we go through the proposed themes and choose an appropriate short list.
- At the same time we ask for input from Members and the Operations team via Google
docs, this is optional for these teams, but we often get nice input.
- We mull on it and reconvene and discuss more.
- Artcom passes their proposed theme through the directorship for approval.
- Write up and fine tune the theme development
- Pass through the directors for final approval on text
- Announce the Theme
- Go to Tankwa and make fabulous things.
Who is Artcom?
Brad Baard, Roger Van Wyk, Shani Judes, Robert Weinek, Conrad Hicks, Samantha Bendzulla, Monique Schiess and Isa Marques.