To explain the thinking behind the timing of our Temple burn this year, project lead on the Temple of Stars, Walter Bohmer, has provided some insight into his reasons for requesting a Sunday silent burn of the structure.
Words: Walter Bohmer
Dear AfrikaBurn Community
I have heard / read some comments lately on social media regarding the move of the Clan and Temple burns, back to having the Clan burn on Saturday and the Temple burn on Sunday. I would like to share with you some facts around this, and tell you about the Starlight Collective’s intention for the Temple of Stars.
Every artist at AfrikaBurn has the option to burn their piece. AfrikaBurn ArtCom engages with each artist on the reasons for wanting to burn their piece, but it is still the artist’s choice. Some members of ArtCom, as well as myself, am of the opinion that there are perhaps too many burns, which on the one hand appear wasteful and on the other dilutes the effect. To put this into perspective, there are normally less than 5 pieces that burn at Burning Man, which is more than 7 times our size. Nonetheless, it is still the artist’s choice to burn their artwork.
Similarly, the decision on when to burn the piece is the artist’s choice. In case more than one artist wants to burn their piece at the same time, it is discussed with all the artists involved until agreement is reached. Factors to keep in mind are: need for fire perimeter, rangers and fire brigade on stand-by; reasons for time chosen; etc.
The Temple used to burn on Sundays. It was only in 2015 that the Metamorphosis Crew from Jozi asked that the Temple be burned on Saturday. The last 3 years continued the same.
In 2017, I was the artist for the Temple of Gratitude. Apart from some international members, the crew were entirely from Johannesburg. The burn of the Temple Of Gratitude happened on Saturday evening. 2017 was an all-out crazy party and getting everyone quiet for the silent burn was a challenge. The silence lasted for maybe 15 mins. When the big blaze was dying down, before the structure collapsed, someone cried out and the crowd followed. Soon after the party continued.
I felt that the ritual did not get the respect it deserved. Neither did it have a chance to have the effect that it was intended for. This made me wonder. And my feeling is this:
“How can you blame them? Saturday night is the climax of AfrikaBurn. Everyone has their best outfit on, ready to party to some of the best DJs in the world. Who wants to calm down and reflect for an hour? Are you mad???”
When the Temple burns on Sunday, Sunday has a very different feel to what it has been in the last 3 years. And the evening still has an afterglow of music and dance. It is a more intimate wind down. It is an emotional evening for everyone and people tend to be reflective, embracing and supporting each other.
There will be more people this year that stay until Monday, especially for the Temple burn. Some plan to leave directly after the burn. This year, the Temple of Stars is being built by the Starlight Collective – a team that mostly come from Johannesburg.Our intention for the Temple of Stars is to be a metaphysical space that allows for ritual. For letting go. For being present. We invite everyone to engage in collective myth-making and celebrate immediacy.
As the artist of the Temple of Stars, I believe that burning the Temple on Sunday enables a space for catharsis which you cannot reach when you are in the climax of your experience at AfrikaBurn. For this reason, I approached the AfrikaBurn ArtCom with a proposal to change the burn of the Temple back to Sunday. It was discussed at an ArtCom meeting and the committee agreed to the proposal.
I hope this gave you a deeper insight into this matter. And I hope that you will find solace in the Sunday evening burn.
Love & Starlight
For some historical info on the reasons for the timing of our Temple burn each year, here’s a summary taken from discussions on social media and with our team over the past few years:
In the early days of the burn we followed the format of Burning Man and burned the Clan on Saturday and the Temple on Sunday.
But our team, and the artists involved, decided to experiment with this for a couple of reasons – one being that in years gone by many people had already left by the Sunday of event week, meaning that the idea of the Temple and its silent burn had not really taken root. There was also issue of the size of our site (which is the root of many of our curatorial interventions) which means that we are more prone to having to cancel/reschedule burns due to bad weather. Scheduling the Clan burn for Friday also gave us a little bit of wiggle room for rescheduling if necessary. These days, we know from our gate entry & exit data that there are many more people who stay on the Sunday – and many years down the line, the context of the Temple and its silent burn are now firmly rooted in our community, meaning a Sunday burn for the Temple (and a Saturday for our Clan effigy) works well.