In late 2009 Simon O’Callaghan arrived in Cape Town and within a few months was travelling to the Tankwa Karoo desert with the builders of a 16-metre-high sculpture that was to burn in front of almost 2 500 people. This was the start of his Burn Journey.
AfrikaBurn is the most exciting interactive art spectacle on the continent – a suspension of reality, a blank canvas inviting a radical community to work, play and create at will. A cultural oasis emerges in the middle of a semi-desert landscape, pulsating with art, theme camps, costumes, music and performance. Its temporary citizens set aside their daily habits, cell phones and wallets to celebrate community, art, self-expression and self-reliance.
To Simon, as a photographer, the visuals are delights. He started photographing many portraits utilising a large and heavy power pack to illuminate a 1 200W ring flash, creating colourful and beautiful images that he gifted back to the participants. The moniker ‘Ring Flash Guy’ was thus given to him.
With a collection of images from the past seven years of AfrikaBurn, where artworks surpass 30 metres and which 12 000 people attended in 2016, many travelling from around the world to participate in the event, as well as having been a member of a group that took a kinetic fire show to Burning Man, Simon feels it is time to share some of the highlights of his wonderful journey.
Books of this type are generally not financially profitable, rather passion projects. Attempting to keep true to the principles of the organisation yet recognising private investment was required, there has been a slight compromise in that the select group who made the project viable will receive a small return from any profits for their financial assistance in the publication, this project would not have been possible without them.
The lions share of any profit is to be gifted to AfrikaBurn, this will be in the form of a new ‘Into the Flames’ art fund, ring-fenced purely for the creation of art at the event, not attempting to circumnavigate the current art fund but perhaps creating a different way of thinking for those who may find themselves much further out of the box than everyone else..
The book is to be printed in limited numbers, the Collectors and Deluxe editions fixed to their edition numbers. There are no plans for any reprint of the softcover edition.