Midlands Gift to the Desert

Midlands Gift to the Desert

The Temple Xam. Photo by Louis Bolton

The Temple Xam. Photo by Louis Bolton

Many Midlanders spend a lot of time getting rid of invasive wattle.

Sculptor Kim Goodwin spends quite a bit of time creating beautiful objects from this much maligned tree. Recently, he and his Midlands crew of ten spent a month in the Tankwa Karoo building the Temple //Xam at Afrika Burn.

Kim has been weaving wattle for 30 years and knows what sort of wattle he needs for his projects. “I was fortunate to have access to Balgowan resident, Dane Symmons’ wattle forest and his incredible knowledge. We found that the mature wattle was more flexible than the sappy, greener stems and ideal for my structure.”
After doodling a rough sketch, Kim set about sourcing the ‘ingredients’ – hiring unemployed folk from Lidgetton for six weeks to cut, trim and bundle the wattle – then approaching neighbour, Pat Norton about the gum poles which would form the backbone. “After I explained the concept Pat refused payment, so the spirit of generosity and principle of gifting that epitomises Afrika Burn was already happening right here at home.”

This structure was more architectural than Kim’s usual works, so another talented neighbour, Jim Morrow, was roped in to create the stairs that would enable people to climb inside the Temple. “I could feel it was going to be amazing, with the right people popping up, my son Ben on board, a few of the Ultimate Frisbee guys and other creative souls who got the idea even though it was hard to explain.” Sure, building a Temple in the desert thousands of kilometres away, does sound pretty strange without adding the fact that this festival is about burning art, so it was temporary too!
From an enormous yellow tent pitched on the edge of the camp, the team worked from dawn to dusk with a real sense of purpose, completing the Temple //Xam before the crowds arrived, enjoying intense conversations 10metres above ground while twisting stems into place.

“It is a real privilege to be able to focus on just one thing for three weeks,” comments Kim, “without distractions from cell phones or the commercial world.”

A feature of Afrika Burn is the impermanence of things, hence the burning artworks. Kim has always loved the transient, decomposing kind of art that changes with the seasons. This year, his Temple built in honour of the //Xam Bushmen, did not burn as most others did, but will stand completely alone on the plain for a year with only birds, the moon and silence for company.

Essentially this project is a gift, that Kim is delighted to give, sharing his time and skill with no expectation of return. “I do get an enormous amount back and, this year, the opportunity to bring attention to the beauty, wisdom and stories of the Khoi-San culture that, in a profound way, still affects the soul of Southern Africa, our homeland.”

Here’s to a new view of the humble wattle – firewood, building material and inspiration to rich, poor and artists too.
• Watch Louis Bolton’s time lapse video of the //Xam Temple build here: youtu.be/xICXA14gstw
• Learn more about Afrika Burn: afrikaburn.com


Volunteering rules at Afrika Burn! I found a space that I fit into perfectly! It is the MOST FUN and highly recommended. I volunteered as an Info Booth Faery, in Lost and Found, registering media and showing artists where to set up, collecting MOOP and as a Snow Queen in the ice booth. (Nikki Brighton)


“With no phone signal, cash or deadlines and surrounded by remarkably friendly members of humanity one really begins to believe that we can recreate Life on Earth in a better way.” https://plantabundance.wordpress.com/author/plantabundance/