Nomadic Notes

Lara Kirsten Playing in the Desert
Lara Kirsten wrapped her precious piano in blankets, tied it up with sturdy rope, loaded it in the back of a bakkie and headed into the desert. “I couldn’t resist,” she says “the theme for Afrikaburn this year was PLAY. I am a pianist, I love to play, I just had to take my piano and go.

Lara Kirsten enthralled in the desert Pic: Gideon Vewas

Last year at Afrikaburn, Lara’s partner Kim Goodwin and the DandyLions team, built Temple //Xam from wattle. It has been standing quietly in the Tankwa desert for a whole year. Now home to lizards and birds – including an owl – proud and strong in the landscape.

Lara and Kim had decided to skip the long trek to Afrikaburn this year, but about a month before it started, Lara felt a strong pull to go and play her piano as she had in 2013, but this time in the Temple dedicated to the Bushmen people. If it had been possible, she would have cycled her piano there, but a joyful one woman road trip was the next best thing.

Lara Kirsten performing in The Temple. Pic: Vanessa Crease

In the heat, wind and dust she performed three times for an entranced audience from across the globe. Each concert began with an improvisation. The audience invited to beat a resonating pulse in the dust with their feet and hands, connecting with the earth and invoking the memory of ancestors. Lara felt and followed their beat, playing spontaneously in celebration of the crowd, the art and those who had come before. During one performance, a classic, hot Tankwa wind swept across the plains, covering the keys with sand and Lara feared her audience would run for cover. They stayed, mesmerised by the intensity this added to Lara’s performance. “I wanted to cry with sheer bliss that everyone remained, braving the elements and holding me in their circle. This feeling will stay with me forever.

The programme included works by Debussy, Bach, Albeniz, and Yann Tiersen. Naturally, a Lara Kirsten performance wouldn’t be complete without a poem. She wrote and recited a dedication to the Bushmen and humbly handed the poem to a representative of the Bushmen people who was present.

I feel deep gratitude to the DandyLions crew who invested their spirit into weaving this incredible sculpture. The beautiful energy and attention of the audience this year made the experience one of the performance highlights of my life!” she enthused afterwards.

For many, her performances were the highlight of their time at Afrikaburn, too. Her exuberance for living a creative, untamed life is infectious. How fortunate we are in the Midlands to have Lara’s talent, generous spirit and deep connection to the earth to inspire us all, right on our doorstep. Don’t miss her concerts when they come to a venue near to you.

Owed to the San

Those who invented neither gunpowder nor compass

Ode to the San at a Temple in the desert, by Lara. Pic: Claire Murning Oosthuizen

Those who tamed neither steam nor electricity
Those who explored neither sea nor sky
But those who know the humblest corners of the country of suffering
Those whose only journeys were uprootings
Those who went to sleep on their knees” – Aimé Césaire
from the day the dawn of humanity
licked the skin of your ankles
you carved open the way with your spindly-light tread
with dust on your brows and cracks in your feet
you slipped into sun-warmed valleys and dusky caves
filled them with stone, footprints and chiseled dreams
when the humble ritual of your dancing followed
the stamping of your feet would resound to a most primal beat
and your bony cheeks would break open in smiles
and make the stars dance in the skies
how could a people like you be silenced?
your blood spilt onto the cave-walls of our minds
princes of the lands the one day, wretched slaves the next
your identity torn and scarred
how can we forget?
how can we forget?
and yet, you keep on rising, the first peoples
filled with dreams and confusion, you do your daily deeds
with soil under your nails, you stitch together the continents
you keep your feet and hearts pressed firmly against the roots of the earth
feeling the vibration of mineral strength
earth is happy to feel how lightly
you have imprinted your spoor
how could a people like you be silenced?
when your tongues come to life, pure and spontaneous metaphor
leaks recklessly from your throats
and in filigree syllables
drips like stalactites in our ears
we will listen and
we won’t forget
we won’t forget
with ochre wings your spirits keep flying over mountains
naked and free just as the wild skies like it
like a haunting hunger the memory of you clings to our bones
and keeps reminding us of the direction into which we should go
that way, that way
a people like you can not be silenced
hear how your voices break through stone and history
see how you have ignited humanity
as you came walking in harmony with the lands
your beauty throbbing with hope in your hands
hope that with or without our selfish will
will keep haunting us still
we will not forget
we will not forget