In the few days left before we embark on the unknown of Black Rock Desert in little tribes from all corners of the globe, I can’t help but think of this year’s theme and my Great Grandfather as I pack my bags.
What is a caravan? A caravan implies a long and dangerous journey taken by people, where there is often safety in numbers. It use to be a combined effort between several tribesmen getting together and going on a journey through the desert on camel back…..One man and a camel can not travel the desert….. therefore, it takes a village for this type of journey to take place.
I’m very proud of a famous caravan of the past. This particular caravan was one of 80 camels that my Great Grandfather, Rai Bahadur. Lal Singh arranged from the Temple of a Thousand Buddhas in western China in 1907 to Peshawar.
R.B. Lal Singh (pictured below in a turban) was head of the caravan, responsible for the safety and security of the group and the official map maker of the various routes of the Silk Road. He navigated the expedition lead by Sir Marc Aurel Stein across multiple deserts, over 22,000 foot high glacier peaks of the Himalayas, and down very narrow passages.
This caravan carried many precious artifacts from the caves of the Temple of a Thousand Buddha’s such as gold, jewelry and the world’s first known printed book the Darmand Sutras. It was a difficult 90 day journey of loading and unloading with frequent mutinies by the laborers and caravan robbers. Today, those 80 camel loads of treasure can be found sitting unpacked in the basement of the British Museum in London…
This years theme of caravansary, is rich in meaning for me, as it refers to life on the road and the centers of cultural exchange found along the way . This type of cross cultural thinking and community design is what I have built my life around, it’s what I think drives innovation and it’s what keeps my heart racing. To me, caravans of the past and caravansary is very much like living in a far away village, where all the citizens live together, are engaged and are helping each other to create art as life…. Black Rock City is a sort of pop- up caravansary and our work with the Burning Man Project looks at how this civic design is manifesting in modern cities.
Jenn Sander x