TANKWA TOWN In the semidesert Karoo – halfway along the R355, a 250km untarred road between Calvinia and Ceres in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa (that means on the longest stretch in the country without petrol stations, nearby assistance, phone signal) – there is a magic place: a temporary city that every year since 2007 appears and disappears in just one week.
This annual event and sort of social experiment is based on the radical sense of community, art and creativity, self-expression and self-reliance. Dust, sounds and freedom welcome the new inhabitants asking them to forget some social behaviours that here don’t exist. For instance, nothing can be bought in Tankwa Town, except for the ice. And time – just like ice in the desert – begins to melt and becomes a concept that no longer preoccupies the human minds. No trace of activity will have to remain: the idea is to leave this place (world) better than found it, thanks to creative cooperation and collaboration.
At sunrise, you can start the day with a yoga class or sit under your neighbour’s tent drinking a cup of tea from a small farm in Mozambique. During the day you can do different activities, learn new things and make new friendships. At sunset, when the heat leaves place to a fresher air, you can stroll among the artworks, dance around a fire, participate in various discussions or go exploring the desert in a mutant vehicle, meeting painted and colourful people celebrating life.
Here, the measure of exchange is a smile, or a sincere good morning. The temporary houses are always open to welcome the wandering curious. Conversations spread easily and meals get shared with strangers. In Tankwa Town, people from all over the world, with different life paths, meet and live together for a week following some simple principles. These principles offer guidelines to everyone and teach us how together, as a community, we can reinvent the world, and hence ourselves. Anyone, anywhere, can be a bit like Tankwa Town and continue to freely express themselves even after and outside an intense, extreme and radical experience like this one that encourages individuals to co-live and share but also to rediscover the intimate essence of themselves, exercising to rely on one’s own inner resources, on one’s roots.
As the end of the week approaches, the burning of the artworks starts and the memory of yesterday fades, swept away by the importance of the present moment. The indelebile mark that a temporary city, town, place – like this one – can leave is what makes this an eternal story, a story of a quest for a chance to invent the world anew.
More about the event:
“AfrikaBurn is the spectacular result of the creative expression of a community of volunteers who, once a year, gather in the Tankwa Karoo to create a temporary city of art, theme camps, costume, music and performance! For those that have been no explanation is necessary, for those that haven’t none is possible.”
Every year (around the end of April) since 2007, AfrikaBurn Festival – the African answer to the American and legendary Burning Man – takes place for seven days in the Karoo, an arid semi-desert area in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa. The event site is a very isolated farm: Stonehenge Private Reserve – adjacent to the Tankwa Karoo National Park and about 300km north of Cape Town.
During the week, the ‘Burners’ (the festival participants) create a temporary city – Tankwa Town – based on the radical sense of art, self-expression, self-reliance and, above all, of unity. To know more about its history and the next editions, you can visit the official website [AfrikaBurn.com] and follow the Facebook Page [AfrikaBurn].