AfrikaBurn 2024: 29 April to 5 May

2019 Theme – Ephemeropolis

Temporal Decomposition at Black Rock City in 1997 – Photo ©1997 by George Post

Ephemerality (from Greek – ephemeros) is the concept of things being transitory, existing only briefly.

Rising like a dusty mirage out of the Karoo heat, there’s a city that many call home. A manifestation of our collective imagination, the culmination of our collective efforts. It comes and goes, and ebbs and flows. It’s transient, temporary and transitory. It’s neither here, nor there. It is real in its unrealness.

“Out of nothing, we created everything.” – Larry Harvey

It’s a collection of differences where we discover the secrets of ourselves that have been kept hidden. Where we uncover hidden strengths and talents, and where we expose our weaknesses and our shortcomings. An experiment with echoes of the past and explosions of the future.

“Human life is involved in the contrast between the ephemeral and the eternal. It is the poet’s task to give permanence to what is fleeting, for in language, his special realm, the stamp of the eternal is impressed on the ephemeral…” – H.P Rickman

Ephemerality, in nature, art, in human activity, leaves potent imprints: a temporary lake, a flash flood, the one night a year that the baobab flowers, a sand mandala, an avenue of cherry blossoms, a sand sculpture washed away by the ocean, land art, a masterpiece drawn in chalk on a road disappearing after the rain, a performance, fireworks, a giant wooden sculpture released through fire. Fleeting moments carry great power… “did that actually happen?”. A trace is left on our psyches.

“…an Ephemeropolis, or evanescent city, fleeting in the dust and smoke of their imaginations…”- D.S. Black

The desert winds and sands taking back Tankwa Town 2018 – Photo from Billy Stewart

Every city is temporary. Contemplate the cosmopolitan historical city states of Munamatapa, Mapungubwe, Samarkand and Tenochtitlan – and explore the fantasy cities of Xanadu, Mega-City One, Atlantis and Tatooine. In the space where something teeters on the edge of existing there is a tangible change in people, in the air, in the world. We speak differently. We value differently. We walk differently – our demeanour and thoughts altered by an automatic, primal reverence of a single idea: when this is gone, it is gone forever. The moment this one, unique, beautiful object, being or moment is gone, nothing will fill the space it once occupied. When this disappears, there is nothing left. Nothing.

“Everything is temporary. Everything is bound to end.” – Keren Ann

Within this gathering hidden in the Tankwa desert we find a space we can explore all the aspects of ourselves that we would never have imagined in the presence of abundance. A space where we can discover what we truly value. A space we can discover who we are in relation to something so meaningful yet so fleeting. A week in which to learn to do things differently.

It could be the last time you experience Tankwa Town, and you would have no idea. Circumstances may change, and you may find that you’ll never visit again. Think of an AfrikaBurn where every piece of art, every project, and every effort is made knowing it could be the last of it’s kind. What would you do? What would you create? What would you celebrate and dance for? What would you worship? What would you lament? What would you laugh at?

“The answer my friend is blowing in the wind…” – Bob Dylan

Sinking into the sands of time; every camp packed, and every vehicle dismantled, this city we manifested will disappear, remaining only in our minds. What a beautiful, astounding, priceless thing.

The desert winds and sands taking back Tankwa Town 2018 – Photo from Billy Stewart

And even thus our city of a year
Must pass like those the shafted sunsets build,
Fleeting as all fair things and, fleeting, dear
A rainbow fallen and an anthem stilled.
A rainbow fallen- but within the soul
Its deep indubitable iris burns;
An anthem stilled yet for its ghostly goal
The incommunicable music yearns.
– George Sterling


Who was The Theme Team for 2019?

Monique Schiess, Lorraine Tanner, Robert Weinek, Werner Strauss, Gregory Hayley, Samantha Bendzulla, The Tim Doyle, Dale Calder, and Chris Denovan.

Where did the ideas spring from?

The rationale includes writing and ideas from Keir Tetley, Travis Lyle, Monique Schiess, The Tim Doyle and some anonymous submissions.