Kolmanskop, a lonely ghost town draped in traditional German architecture, placed delicately, yet ever so deliberately in the middle of the desolate plains of Southern Namibia, the land of the brave, is truly a sight to behold. Beautifully rotting and decaying in isolation, and slowly being swallowed by the sands of the Namib Desert. Ironically, the very desert once robbed of its beloved diamonds by those who flocked here to bask and bathe in jewels and riches.
In all its antique grace and mystique, the vacant mining town of Kolmanskop offers its visitors a surreal window into the exuberance of what once was. If you look deep enough, you can see the ghosts of the early 1900s dancing in the ballroom, socializing at the casino, taking the train to see performers at the theatre, and mourners weeping for lost loves at the hospital.
However, in all of its beauty and wonder, a faint sadness lingers over this place, a chilling reminder of the tendency humans have to take from the earth, only to move on when its precious resources have been exhausted, leaving a trail of abandonment in our wake. Following World War I it became apparent that the diamond mines had been bled dry of their treasured stones. By 1954 the miners had packed up their tools and moved on to new prospects, never to return to Kolmanskop again, almost like a circus rolling out of town, but leaving the big top and caravans and animal cages for dead once the audience had gone home.
But there is also a certain hopefulness to this nowhere place, and it comes from the geological forces causing the desert to engulf its houses and buildings, eventually to bury them all in graves of sand. The diamond town will be lost, but soon the sands will take back what this town once stole. Kolmanskop is a testament to the fierceness of nature, enabling it to render a once thriving establishment to a mere row of glorified sandcastles, doomed with the beauty of impermanence, and destined to be washed away by the seas of time from the day they were first built.
“Sandcastles” confronts the way we treat our surroundings and the environmental effects of our actions. It aims to offer a deeper insight into what one can learn from the history of Kolmanskop – That everything is ephemeral and nothing lasts forever, thus, an even balance between humanity and our environment is vital. This exhibition also serves as a reminder of the sheer power of Mother Nature, and her ability to heal the wounds which she has suffered at the hand of human infrastructure when she is given the time and privacy to recover. It is both a nostalgic and reflective look at history, but also an eerie, glimpse into a post-apocalyptic future, where the Earth that we consistently damage continues to exist without us, but where we will cease to exist if we do not begin to respect the Earth.