In the search for an ideal location for our main annual AfrikaBurn event, many aspects have had to be considered. Among these are:
What criteria has been applied to identify the new event site?
- Aesthetics, wow factor, preferably a view of the Cederberg and Tafelberg
- Geophysical attributes
- Size (>280 ha) for the event site (at the very least)
- Lack of vegetation
- Slope and surface (smooth and un-rocky to allow comfortable walking, cycling and mutant vehicle driving)
- Elevation, aspect and view
- Drainage / flood risk
- Soil surface robustness and recovery
- Buffer distance to neighbours
- Potential for separate operational area not visible from event site
- Potential for air strip
- In a degraded or remedial state
'In the Tankwa Karoo, because it's Tankwa Town'
With these criteria in mind, the team that has worked on investigating land parcels has thoroughly and carefully considered many locations in the Tankwa Karoo, both in the Northern and Western Cape provinces. The team consisted of members of our Land Committee and called on the expertise of a range of specialists such as Dr Phil Desmet (botanist and spatial biodiversity planner) and soil scientist Dr Johann Lanz, in order to ensure that qualified opinions on suitability were obtained.
The Tankwa Karoo is considered the best region for an event of our type, due to geological formations being able to support the unique nature of what our event involves: heavy vehicles, burning structures and a temporary city. All of these activities can have a significant impact – but in the Tankwa, due to soil and rock formations, there are areas that are relatively flat and are characterised by flash flood zones and large sheets of ‘rock pavement’ here which are naturally barren, and durable enough to not be impacted.
Though it is true that the Northern Cape does feature barren salt pans (such as Verneukpan and Hakskeenpan), these are not considered ideal for an event of our nature, due to the greater distances our community would have to travel, and the high likelihood that should a seasonal rain occur during an event held on a salt pan, people, vehicles and emergency crew would become stranded.
This is why areas (like those used by the AfrikaBurn event at Stonehenge) are considered ideal, because they are composed of an exposed bedrock that reptile, mammal or bird species are not usually able to burrow into – and are covered by a thin layer of sand that is not conducive to supporting many species of plants. As per Dr Phil Desmet:
“The ecological condition of the plains can be categorised as extremely degraded as there is exceptionally low diversity of perennial shrubs… with extensive desert pavement areas that appear to have been created from recent erosion rather than being natural features.”
These characteristics make these areas the least populated zones in terms of flora and fauna (and thus least likely to suffer from long-lasting human impact) – and they lend themselves to good recovery. This is much like Stonehenge, which is characterised by excellent recovery after each year’s event to the extent that virtually no signs of disturbance are visible after a year’s period of rain and wind action.
A critical element of our team’s investigations has been to seek the advice of expert soil scientist, geologists and an ecologist who are qualified to analyse the various habitats of the Tankwa Karoo. With this advice, we are able to determine where our event could operate on the appropriate rock and soil formations, and thus make as little impact as possible.