(words: Graeme Allan, photos: Edwin Angless)
It was a night with a new moon – dark!
The burn began to be populated with people and art cars. It was difficult to see how many people attended the show. The music played from the sound system and the Wizards of the AfrikaBurn Fire Collective joined by our very dear friend $teven Ra$pa moved towards the Pendulum to ignite it and set in motion the timing of the show as one piece after the other were set on fire and the Playa was set alight with kinetic movement.
As with any live show not all functioned as it should, we found it difficult to set things alight using different fuels, even the altitude had an effect. Halfway through the show, Lizzy the T-Rex remained in the Egg structure as it refused to release her. The show changed its timing and all other pieces where ignited while the Fata crew struggled to set Lizzie free. It seemed that she would burn out before she would have chance to run freely around the circle. I remember stepping off the art car where I had been directing the show through two way radios, leaving Mike Suss (our DJ) to play the rest of the tracks.
I remember walking over to the Egg confronted by quite an unexpected vision. The giant Egg was full of people and flames, with the heads of individuals popping up and moving here and there, the structure shaking from side to side. It looked like an Orwellian factory of flame and steel. I arrived as the call went out to pull the T-Rex out backwards. With concerted effort, she pulled away from the structure and I remember distinctly comments from the gathered crowd. – ‘Ahh! It’s a T-Rex!!!’ Lizzie was hooked up to the Trike and began running around the circle to much whooping and delight and whistling of appreciation. It was not what we had planned or envisioned, but it worked and offered something unexpected as the vision of the Egg factory was forever burned into my memory.
As you all can imagine we collectively celebrated that night. There is something very special about the feelings of collective endeavor. During the course of this monumental journey we had all got to know each other very deeply. I would go to the ends of the earth with this merry band of Vlamsters.
The end to our time in the desert was approaching. On Sunday a bunch of us got up early and ran the Pendulum at dawn. The Temple Burn was scheduled that night. Together with Kayden Kleinhans, we visited the Temple where he placed the leather bound book full of the musings on the alter. The alter was made of stone which that night would be revealed glowing, heated by the extreme temperature as the Temple burning, fell about it. The Temple Burn is truly a thing of beauty. It’s a silent Burn, a great deal of spiritual energy, people’s intent and beliefs had been focused here, it is the only time that Black Rock City is quiet. Tens of thousands of people contemplate their experiences and their lives, surrender and let go, it’s cathartic and the release drives many to tears. The experience is massively powerful.
Monday dawns and we need to get back to work. We had to de-rig all our artworks and pack them into the container, we labored for most of Monday hampered by whiteouts caused by light winds that picked up the loose salted sands as more and more of the playa was exposed as people departed for home.
Experiencing a whiteout for prolonged periods of time is quite extraordinary. All your senses become heightened as the fight or flight syndrome kicks in, you are not able to see anything in front of you, sometimes not even your very own extended extremities. If you are out in the open, you need to somehow orientate yourself; I did this by positioning my right cheek to the wind and slowly walked with the wind constantly hitting me at this angle till I reached civilization. You feel completely isolated and have no idea what might be coming your way.
We arrived with 15 000 of the 68 000 that would attend the event on playa and by the time we left on Tuesday the same number were left. The last of us packed up the camp, shoved it into the container and helped our hosts Fractal Planet pack away and clear the general camp. The container was lifted onto its trailer and carted off Playa on its return journey back to Cape Town with enough Playa dust to create a small beach installation back home. After multiple pass MOOP lines, much dancing to Kwaito music playing from the small rig we had at our disposal, we said good bye to the good people of Fractal Planet and headed to Reno where we would all continue on our separate journeys home.
The container has finally arrived home. She will find her home in the Tankwa where our very own DPW will utilise her as a store and workshop. She will stand there as a monument to our endeavor, forever reminding those that participated in ‘VLAM I STOF / Odd I See’ of this extraordinary time that we all gave so much too, where we learnt so much and helped galvanize our community. And inspire people to collectively realise their creative dreams.
I would like to thank all the Vlamsters, the volunteers who helped and never came with us, the funders, the Burner community of South Africa and at large for their well wishes.
Thanks for the memories of this extraordinary experience that will last a lifetime.
Yours in Flames and Dust
The Head Boy aka Graeme Allan