Draka the Dragon

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Presented By:
Lisa Nigro
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Tell us briefly about your project. Is it a work of art or does it serve another function?

Draka is a 112 foot long dragon built on a truck pulling three trailers. She is a major piece of art, a mobile entertainment center, and an inspiration that often serves as a very large taxi service. Draka’s been known to blow a 50 foot burst of flame thru the streets of downtown Houston. She is made of mostly recycled materials; 55-gallon steel drums make up her scales and old cedar shingles form the texture of her belly, while faux-fur seating and chandeliers adorn her interior. Now approaching 12 years of age as we begin the Chinese year of the Water Dragon, Draka wants to spread her wings and fly once again.

When did you start working on this project and how long did it take you to complete?

This dragon was originally built for the Burning Man Festival in 2000, the Chinese year of the Metal Dragon, by Lisa Nigro, her Cowgirl Crew, and the assistance of Black Rock City Dept. of Public Works, and many, many, many volunteers. We had three months to pull the project together that first year. Draka survived an accidental fire which totally destroyed her entire front section in 2002, a new truck was donated and she was rebuilt. Draka then received a transportation grant from the Houston Art Car Museum, and several refurbishing grants from the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art (2004-08) to participate in the annual Houston Art Car Parade. We’d say she was finally REALLY complete after refurbishing in 2007. Over the years she has transformed, and mutated, and worn many, many faces. Now, after sitting for four years, in this year of the Chinese Water Dragon, Draka is once again going under re-construction for the pleasure of her fans and in time for her 12th Birthday in August.

What was your goal in building this project?

Inspired by the dragon clock tower described in Gregory Maguire’s book (and now Broadway play) “Wicked ~ the life & times of the Wicked Witch of the West,” we wished to build a fire-breathing dragon car that could tote a lot of people around and also entertain the masses with live performances on board at the Burning Man Festival.

Does your project help to solve a problem? If so what problem?

Draka helps to partially solve the problem of unhappy peoples populating the planet. She has a gift for making people stare in awe, she stirs excitement, and inspires others to build contraptions and art cars of their own.

What makes your idea unique?

We only know of a couple other fire-breathing dragons who are this mobile. Draka is probably the largest modern day dragon, and definitely blows the biggest burst of flame (approx 50ft!). She’s the only one we know who has adapted to both desert and city living. Within the bowels of this beast there are several living rooms, an upper deck, and a full bar which makes for plenty of room for the enjoyment of the masses with live music on board.

In what capacity are you using bearings and what type of bearings?

There’s a ball valve in Draka’s throat. It’s there where you’ll find a giant ball bearing that controls the flow of propane which creates her massive fire effects, those fifty-foot bursts of dragon flame!

What is the most important thing you want people to know about your project?

If a petite 5’2” Sicilian gal dream up and make manifest an epic dragon contraption caravan creation, almost anyone can become inspired to create any of their dreams. This dragon has become a new sort of mythological icon within the Burning Man and Art Car communities across the nation, inspiring and even terrifying those who encounter her. Draka has regenerated herself over and over for the pleasure of the peoples. She is MAGICK in its purest form. Those who interact with her sense that she is ALIVE, that she is SPIRIT incarnate. An earth, air, fire, water, and metal breathing beast ~ She bites, scratches, and reminds you of things you should not have forgotten. And, she flat out Refuses to DIE.

How will you use the $5,000 prize?

Draka the Dragon has been sitting in Houston exposed to the elements (humidity & rain) the last four years. We will use the $10,000 prize to refurbish her inside and out, starting with tires, bearings, engine repairs, new upholstery, carpets, a revamp on the flamethrower, and a complete demolition and reconstruction of the bar car section. We will also apply the prize funds toward costs related to transporting her to several festivals across the nation who are demanding her presence, i.e. Burning Flipside, Texas; Apogaea Festival, Colorado; Bonnaroo Festival, Tennessee, Coachella Music Festival, California, and Burning Man Festival, Nevada.

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