Gift to the Desert

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.

Temple Xam

Afrika Burn is community of participants who come together voluntarily to create art and a new world in Tankwa Town once a year. Eleven principles act as guidelines for the event and illustrate how a community can reinvent the world.

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.”

top of temple

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.

temple at dawn

Essentially this project is a gift, that Kim is delighted to give, sharing his time and skill with no expectation of return. He creates for the people, the photographers, the writers and poets. “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.”

khoi san poetry

Here’s to a new view of the humble wattle – firewood, building material and inspiration to rich, poor and artists too.

Thanks to Louis Bolton for the use of his amazing photographs. Watch his time lapse video of the //Xam Temple build here:

Learn more about Afrika Burn:

Read a personal account of the event:



4 Comments Add yours

  1. Travis says:

    Great posts on the |Xam temple, and your general experience – thanks, Nikki!


    1. Thank you Travis, and thanks for organising such an amazing adventure for so many people!


  2. boltoninc says:

    Great read and piece. Thank you! The beauty of the desert and the /Xam temple will remain with me for a long time. Here’s to the Burn next year.

    Liked by 1 person

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