Urban design and performing land art at AfrikaBurn: academic article by Dr John Steele

Posted by on 11th March 2020


Tankwa Town 2009 photo with hand drawings by Monique Schiess and team identifying vistas and areas for expansion (photo: Monique Schiess from AfrikaBurn archives).

The article “Ephemeropolis: urban design and performing land art at AfrikaBurn 2019” by John Steele has just been published. It seems timeous to be reflecting on urban planning and curation of spaces, people and works since 2007, especially considering Afroboratory this year will be our final event at Stonehenge Private Reserve, prior to moving to Quaggafontein  in 2021.

The spatial history of AfrikaBurn since inception is traced and highlights are commented upon, as in for example, when new areas for expansion were discussed using a 2009 aerial photo, and then when shaving off one horseshoe tip (in order to open up the Binnekring circle) was planned in 2016, then implemented in 2017.

Tankwa Town in 2016, with indicators showing suggestion to cut off the tip of the 10ish end of the horseshoe for implementation in 2017 (photo: Monique Schiess from AfrikaBurn archives).


Each iteration is conceived of as an evolving interactive land art event, co-curated and performed by leadership and all participants. AfrikaBurn is further considered from theoretical points of view assisted by, among others, Inge Konik’s ideas about people and spaces channelling libidinal flows within a framework of activist ecological and environmental awareness; Hakim Bey’s thoughts pertaining to the creation of temporary autonomous zones; Mikhail Bakhtin’s evocation of carnival as a great leveller that is transgressive of all conventional limits; and Karen Halnon’s recognition of contemporary carnivalesque gatherings as facilitating dis-alienation and experiencing of joyous creative fulfilment as a vital source of energy that contributes to activation of meaningfulness in everyday life.

The full article is available for perusal and download at Research Gate.

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