(words: Travis Lyle / photos: Johan Nothnagel and Jonx Pillemer)
Meanwhile, out in the Tankwa…our crew have arrived at Quaggafontein in a convoy of flatbed trucks, as the serious business of relocating the contents of our storage depot has kicked off. But this isn’t a simple operation involving a few camp tents and some rebar. Oh, no – this is a Large And Logistical Exercise, involving a lot of heavy lifting and a whole lot of planning that’s been nearly a year in the making. But let’s roll back…
Before Covid-19 landed and scrambled all of our lives, planning had already begun for the move of our Anti-Climax storage depot’s contents at Stonehenge Private Reserve (the event location that was the home of our main annual event since 2007) to our new home in the Tankwa, Quaggafontein. These plans were a long time in the making: for at least 6 years, our Members and team had been considering finding a new location for our main annual event, in order to provide more space for artworks and camps (which had become increasingly cramped and hard to place within the limits of the space we’d used at Stonehenge). And the planning involved a lot: from the initial identification of ideal storage sites on the new location which would take into consideration making as little impact on the new land as possible, to factoring in the distance from the new storage sites to our future event sites, and on to the co-ordination of heavy lifting machinery and crew, this move has involved many months’ worth of diagrams, site inspections and logistical co-ordination. But of course the best laid plans can all come apart if curveballs enter the picture, and they did when the corona virus put a big pause on all of our lives (and our plans to move site).
The reason for all the planning and logistics is that the contents of our Anti-Climax storage depot at Stonehenge consisted of a huge amount of infrastructure and materials – and it’s usually only our DPW crew that have a real sense of just how extensive this pile of stuff is, or how much effort and co-ordination it takes to pack away, or pack out.
Streetlights, shipping containers, raw materials like steel and wood, stretch tents and poles, and then of course the basic components of all those hundreds of toilets – it all adds up to a very large pile of Lego blocks that have to be dismantled every year and packed away. And in this move, the careful packing down of these many tons of equipment and materials has taken on a new dimension: usually, the many hundreds (if not thousands) of items only have to make their way from Anti-Climax (which was around 1 kilometre from the old Binnekring) on Stonehenge to the DPW yard and Off-Centre Camp areas of our old event site. This time round it’s a very different proposition, with the entire contents of Anti-Climax having to be moved from Stonehenge to Quaggafontein, which is 30km southeast as the crow flies. Thus the many trucks and heavy lifting equipment: shipping containers and many hundreds of tons of materials can’t be chucked on the back of a bakkie.
And so the logistical challenge has involved a lot of planning what to move, when, and how, in the most efficient way – and all of this has now had to be done not in the cool months of the desert year, but rather in November which is brutally hot out in the Tankwa. But our crew have soldiered on, and we’re happy to say that when it comes to our DPW posse, they’re made of strong stuff. And so, on November 2nd the process began, as the contents of Anti-Climax began to be loaded onto flatbeds and into containers, and started to be moved in a convoy across the baking hot Tankwa to its new home.
For two very hot days, the trucks have hauled down the dusty R355 and onto the R354, which is now the new road to our desert home. And as the days have been intensely hot, so much of the work of carefully positioning and placing the various shipping containers has had to be done at night, when the temperature is mercifully a few degrees cooler.
The work hasn’t been a walk in the park, and anyone who participated in our earliest events in the Tankwa in 2007 and 2008 would be able to testify to just how intense the heat and wind of the Tankwa can be in summertime – but thanks to a lot of pre-planning, most everything has run according to plan, and we’re now happy to say that the first big steps have been accomplished smoothly. Now, with the biggest Tetris pieces of the storage puzzle in place, the additional work of moving smaller elements into place will continue. Not everything will be in its right place right away, but as time passes and we find out feet in our new home, so (just like moving into your own new home) things start to find their happy place and make sense.
As the dust starts to settle on this big move, so it’s a good idea to consider the unseen work that’s also been done for many months by a wide team of volunteers and our own AfrikaBurn crew.
To make the final decision on where the best storage site could be located was in itself a long process, and there’s a very good reason for the caution and diligence taken to arrive at that final decision: Quaggafontein itself as a property features a significant number of cultural artefacts and heritage sites which are very sensitive to impact. So it’s been with a great deal of care and respect for these sites that any moves of vehicles and equipment have been planned, and pursued. Because Quaggafontein is a conservation site, we (as the AfrikaBurn crew and community) have a collective responsibility to tread as lightly as ever, and only within the limits of specific areas that have been identified as safe to operate in as far as not disturbing areas that feature either culturally important deposits, or sensitive species of flora and fauna. To identify these ‘safe zones’ has been the work of a large team of crew and volunteers, among them soil geologists, archaeologists, heritage specialists, biodiversity practitioners and botanists – and it’s with this valuable advice and analysis in mind that we now start to take steps towards the future in this, our new desert home.
And so, here we are, in the last weeks of 2020 – we’ve arrived at our new home, and we’re looking forward to finding our feet in this new place along with everyone else for whom the Tankwa holds such a special place. It’s an exciting place to be – there’s a lot we know, but equally a lot we’re going to be discovering and exploring along with our community. This is a collective exploration, and one that will unearth new and wonderful things as we take the next steps into AfrikaBurn’s future. Sadly, none of us did get to share a blazing farewell to Stonehenge in 2020, because our event this year couldn’t happen due to the pandemic – but we look forward to a time when we’re able to welcome our enormous and wonderful family of dust and fire lovers to the new home of Tankwa Town when it’s possible.
To get to this point has involved a large number of meetings, discussions, imagining and dreaming, consulting, walking the land and becoming acquainted. In addition, it’s also involved a significant amount of heritage assessment that has engaged archaeologists specialising in architecture and Middle- and Late-Stone-Age artefacts as well as soil analysis, botanical inspection, ecological and water assessments and a huge amount of thinking by planners – and also visits by artists who are considering ways to create art on the new land. So, to all the planners and thinkers that have weighed in with their thoughts, suggestions and advice, we send a shout of thanks – especially to Derek Chittenden, Roger Van Wyk, Monique Schiess, Diaan Nel, Thomas Linders, Johan Vorster, Alex Jesse Marsh and Kim Fairbairn, THANK YOU!
Massive thanks and dusty respect also goes out to the posse that’s accomplished the heavy lifting and relocation – to our DPW posse Luke Armstrong, Kristy Derbyshire, Spikkels Du Preez, Antonia Cronje, Jeremy Barrett, Jemma Kruger, Leeshaam Stringer, Louw Sheridan, Sadé Roux, Neil Brown (medic), Barry Terblanche and Stephan Boshoff, and also heavy lifting and truck master Johann Nothnagel – THANK YOU!
Interested in reading about how our new home became Quaggafontein? Click here to find out how we became the custodians of this incredible piece of land.