Interim profits of R400 000, realised in by sales of The Cape Aflame – Cape Town’s Dance with Fire, a high-quality coffee-table publication and in-depth case study of the March 2015 Muizenberg Fire, were handed over to The Cape Aflame Project’s four partner organisations at a function held at Table Mountain National Park’s Newlands Fire Base on Tuesday evening.
The beneficiaries are the Cape of Good Hope SPCA Wildlife and Horse Care Units (CoGH SPCA), the Cape Peninsula Fire Protection Association (CPFPA), SANParks Honorary Rangers (Table Mountain Region) and Volunteer Wildfire Services (VWS).
150 copies of The Cape Aflame – Cape Town’s Dance with Fire (R395 including VAT) remain available to the public through participating retail outlets. Details may be found at capeaflame.com. It is not known whether a print run of 3 000 copies of any title published in South Africa has contributed as much to essential services in dire need of public financial support.
Go! magazine called The Cape Aflame – Cape Town’s Dance with Fire “… a moving human-interest story, told in a documentary style with drama and intensity.”
South Africa’s leading travel and outdoor lifestyle magazine further describes the book as “…the definitive story of the Muizenberg Fire” and “…a graphic case study for everyone interested in Cape Town’s precious fynbos biome and conservation in general.”
So how did this rigorously researched, graphic-rich, high-quality publication come into being and how did it raise R400 000 for projects undertaken by deserving organisations?
The 2015 Muizenberg Fire was Table Mountain National Park’s largest single wildfire. It scorched 5 120 hectares of fynbos and cut the Cape Peninsula in two – leaving in its wake an apparent wasteland. Its suppression exhausted Capetonians and the organisations contributing to the city’s integrated wildfire fire-fighting capacity.
What was to be done in the fire’s aftermath? The costly and immediate rehabilitation of infrastructure loomed large.
Cash-strapped local, provincial and national authorities set about their work. Wildfire firefighting organisations looked to the 2015/16 fire season with justifiable trepidation. Cape Town’s fynbos and its people were left to recover in their own time.
Fynbos needs wildfire to rejuvenate and with the first, albeit soft, autumn rains of 2015, a glorious proliferation of fynbos burst from seed banks able to germinate for up to 70 years. Razed vegetation and vast tracts of seeming ruin were soon brushed, as if by a painter, with broad sweeps of bold, vibrant colour.
Capetonians responded similarly and, by April 2015, The Cape Aflame Project – a voluntary, collaborative initiative drawing on the collective experience of a dozen or so working professionals from disparate backgrounds, countless photographers and people at every level of the wildfire firefighting, conservation and animal welfare fraternities – was up and running.
Its mission statement was simple:
“The origination, sponsorship, production, marketing, sale and distribution of a long-lived, educative coffee-table publication for the people of Cape Town recording the city’s great and other fires of 2015 to raise funds supporting relevant Cape-based firefighting organisations and services.”
Project and business management skills, resource procurement, curation, research, writing, fact checking, editing, subediting, design, layout, promotion, advertising, marketing, media, inventory management and other elements of the publishing mix were sourced for free or at nominal cost – and at risk.
No money changed hands to acquire well over 200 stunning photographs by more than 50 local and international professional and amateur photographers. All were donated with uncommon generosity.
Capetonians, old and new, were on a learning curve and The Cape Aflame Project, supported by small businesses, independent bookstores and countless individuals found itself facilitating a process enabling all Cape Town and the Western Cape’s residents to appreciate our World Heritage Site’s need of fire on the wildland side of its marginal Wildland Urban Interface.
Following a similar process to our fynbos, a commitment to volunteerism, vision, necessary skills, biodiversity and expert public and private-sector advice formed the seedbank giving life to The Cape Aflame – Cape Town’s Dance with Fire.
It proved a rich and fertile source of inspiration.
Following an intense, high-speed collaborative exercise, a visually-arresting, large-format hardcover book with a French-fold dust jacket was ready for print in September 2015. On sight of final proofs, the printer deferred payment for several months and the presses started rolling.
The Cape Aflame Project and its partners immediately presold the book into the market through their websites and social-media accounts, and Cape Town responded as exuberantly as fynbos to fire.
On 3 December, 2015 stock became available and the book was published. In the run up to Christmas, Capetonians snapped up close on 900 copies ensuring that printing and other costs were soon covered.
Promotional events at markets and malls and sales through consignee bookshops and other outlets ensured that by March 2016 – the anniversary of the Muizenberg Fire, The Cape Aflame – Cape Town’s Dance with Fire was a runaway bestseller.
The Cape Aflame Project’s goal had, with the financial support of each buyer, been met.
In late winter 2016, the fast-greening peaks and valleys above Muizenberg, Fish Hoek, Noordhoek, Chapman’s Peak, Hout Bay, the Constantia Valley, Zwaanswyk and many other suburbs soak yet again beneath rains lending longevity to their fynbos.
It’s a fitting time of year for those involved in writing, compiling and publishing this handsome book to contribute to sustaining the essential-service organisations that maintain the integrity of Cape Town’s Wildland Urban Interface – thereby ensuring the coexistence of our wildland and its adjacent urban areas.
The Cape Aflame Project does so with an abiding sense of gratitude to its partners and beneficiaries and a deep appreciation of the greater community’s abundant seed bank of generosity, goodwill and love of its natural heritage.
Like the Muizenberg Fire, they have contributed to this remarkable…nay, astonishing book that demanded 24/7 commitment, saw battles fought and won, friendships forged, knowledge and wisdom imparted, collaboration honed and innovation used to overcome some of the most vexing problems life, publishing and wildfire firefighting can throw at the individual and the collective.
And like those who fought the Muizenberg and many subsequent wildfires, The Cape Aflame – Cape Town’s Dance with Fire showed its compilers that the most meaningful reward is frequently found in the work itself.
“Cape Town, with the assistance of public and private entities, and drawing from centuries of hard-earned wisdom, has a very good story to tell. It is your story. We thank you for sharing it with us.”