Lara Kirsten

Playing in the Desert

Last month, 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.”

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 piano roadtrip

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 (see below) to a representative of the Bushmen people who was present.

Lara Kirsten at Afrikaburn by Philip Malan
Photo by Philip Malan

 “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.

Lara Kirsten playing by Gideon Vewas
Photo by Gideon Vewas

Owed to the San

“Those who invented neither gunpowder nor compass

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

r san words
Detail of Temple //Xam




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