The year 2018 came to a fitting conclusion with the most spectacular Lights & Lanterns festival yet. The candle-filled triangles and lit dome shape dazzled onlookers with its 3D reflections on the Great Brak River.
A full moon added to the ambiance of a perfect evening, with families feasting from picnic baskets, sharing hopeful and grateful messages on the maypole while children played and blew out candles, all contributing to the festive atmosphere of the event.
The Lights & Lanterns festival is the initiative of Laurinda Smit from Great Brak, well-known for her mandalas, sculptures, quirky wirework and sculpture garden.
So how did this all start?
Laurinda began her sculpture garden many moons ago and wanted to introduce a theme of light. So she used recycled electric piping and plastic bottles to create candle-lit walkways and also placed receptacles for candles throughout the garden. Her wish was to create a place where people could become still, where they could find refuge from the hectic external world, where they could be reminded of the light within and the light that is always there to illuminate our journeys.
In 2015 her mom turned 80 and to surprise her, she and her nephew cut white plastic milk containers in half, placed candles inside and arranged them to form the number 80 in her garden. The reflections were beautiful and her mom was overjoyed. There and then a desire was born to create an event with light being the main focus. She wanted to do something on a much larger scale so that she could share it with as many people as possible. While considering possible venues, she realized that it was right on her doorstep: she could float hundreds of candles on the beautiful Great Brak River. With the mountains as backdrop and the roar of the ocean in the background, it was the perfect setting.
For Laurinda the Lights & Lanterns festival is one of the ways in which she chooses to express her gratitude. Sharing this with people will hopefully remind them of the importance of being with loved ones, enjoying an unhurried, relaxed evening under the stars. With this ceremony, her hope is also to give everyone an opportunity to reflect on values like abundance, love and kindness, to pause awhile in stillness before embarking on the new year. Underlying all of this is her belief that we can unite through simplicity, that each one of us through our actions of compassion and generosity, can spread light through the world. In fact, it is our responsibility to do so.
She uses only recycled material for the festival – plastic bottles, discarded electric piping and wires. Everything is placed on floatable pallets, with the bottles weighed down with sand for safety purposes. The greatest care possible is taken to ensure that no pollution takes place in the river or on the riverbanks and a cleanup takes place immediately afterwards.
Laurinda has always envisioned the event as a community project – for the community and in many ways by the community. She received help from all corners and many volunteers played an integral part in getting the event off the ground: from building the pyramids and dome, cutting a 1 000 candles and almost as many plastic bottles in half, helping to prepare the area in the early morning hours, erecting the maypoles, selling the candles and message cards, lighting the candles on the palettes, carefully selecting beautiful flowers to float on the river, taking all the palettes to the central piece on the river by boat, swimming out to this piece to attach the individual palettes, capturing the drone footage, interviewing spectators and photographing different stages.
The event would not have been possible without the support of the sponsors: TOTAL Grootbrak, Prime Cleaning Suppliers, SPAR, Pick n Pay, Safari, Interwaste, Suiderkruis Security, Midbrak Buurtwag Team, Mossel Bay Municipality, Electrical, Waste, Fire Department, Mossel Bay Tourism, Grootbrak Info Centre and The Post.
In keeping with the theme of gratitude and spreading light a generous donation from the proceeds of the evening will go towards the nursery schools in the Great Brak area, based on a thorough needs assessment.
Laurinda’s greatest wish for this festival is that it will continue long after she is gone, that it will always be a part of Great Brak River, and that it will always remind people to spread light in whichever way they can.
Follow The Post facebook page (The Post Garden Route) for the release of video footage of the event in the near future.