Tucked away in the dry and arid Tankwa Karoo region of South Africa, away from all signs of civilization, you will find the amazing festival called AfrikaBurn. Without knowing what you are going to do here, you will probably get lost just trying to find it.
What is AfrikaBurn?
AfrikaBurn is a community of participants who come together to create art, burning structures, costumes, performances, theme camps, music, mutant vehicles and much more. All of this is created once a year through the volunteer culture of the citizens in Tankwa Karoo National Park.
The aim of the AfrikaBurn festival is to be radically inclusive and accessible to anyone. The touchstone value in their culture will always be: experience before theory, moral relationships before politics, survival before services, roles before jobs, ritual before symbolism, work before vested interest, participant support before sponsorship.
Nothing but ice is for sale at this event. Nothing. There are no vendors, no advertising nor branding. It just doesn’t fit in.
“It’s not even a barter economy – it’s a gift economy that’s about giving without expecting anything in return.”
AfrikaBurn Festival – how to?
You have now read the principles of AfrikaBurn. Does this fit with your lifestyle? Is this something you want to experience? Because, it’s easier said than done. When you are used to attending huge festivals like Coachella and Ultra, your biggest concern is missing out on the headliner, because you’re stuck in the bar. The uniqueness of AfrikaBurn is that you provide what you drink, what you eat, where you sleep and how you get in – ALL BY YOURSELF. Of course this all seems frightening at first (it absolutely did to me), but a little bit of practical planning will get you a long way.
What is your contribution at AfrikaBurn?
The second thing you have to decide before attending the AfrikaBurn festival, is what your contribution to the festival will be. Each year they choose a specific theme for the festival, and the year of 2018 (when I attended) the theme was wider and more individual; working title – choose your own theme.
A working title is the temporary name that is given to a project during it’s development. So, the theme of this year invited us to engage and take responsibility for defining Tankwa Town – the temporary city in a participant-driven society.
To be honest, it couldn’t have been a better fit for us, as this was our first time as burners on AfrikaBurn.
No rules at AfrikaBurn
One of the things I loved about this festival was that you could come as you are. Many places state this, but it’s just to look good on paper. What they mean is; come as you are, but follow our rules. At AfrikaBurn they really mean it. You can find everything here. And everything is accepted.
My friend and I love to dress up and use quite a lot of time creating and making costumes. This is seen as a contribution in itself, because you are part of defining; “what is AfrikaBurn to you” – with your individual statement. It was an amazing experience to see how all of the unique, individual statements created such an empowering community.
”Bee to the blossom, moth to the flame,
Each to his passion, what’s in a name?”
A gifting economy at the AfrikaBurn Festival
I already stated the fact that you need to provide for everything yourself – drinks, food, transport and whatnot. But because of the gifting economy created at this festival, you can get both drinks and food from many of the main camps on the venue. These are powered by individuals who want to be a contribution to the festival in this way.
Check out the survival guide for the AfrikaBrun festival (you get it when you pick up your ticket). This contains the specific program of when and where, who and what. The camps who provide food and drinks are usually only open for two hours a day, or less. But please, I’m not encouraging you to be a freeloader. Contribute in your own way and give without expecting something in return.
Most burners camp at the festival area because the hassle of getting here is just too much to bare. The majority of burners start to arrive on Monday to put up their camps and get into the groove, and by Wednesday most of the camps, mutant vehicles and burning structures are up and running.
Take a shower and sleep comfortable at AfrikaBurn
What if you don’t like to camp out in the desert? What if you like to shower off the dust and sleep comfortably after a sinful night? What if you just happen to be a little bit of a diva, just like me? Don’t worry. I found the perfect solution.
Check out my home-away-from-home-AfrikaBurn-style. This was our best decision throughout the festival, no doubt. Yes, we tried camping at the venue for a night, but that was enough. The burning heat at daytime and freezing cold at night was not something I want to iterate, just saying…
Staying at Skoorsteenberg Farm and Cottages also gave us the opportunity to fly private to the festival one day. Seeing the venue and where its actually located from the sky, in the middle of Tankwa Karoo National Park – gives you the insight into how far you actually are from civilization!
Do you want to experience the magic?
So, if you decide to attend AfrikaBurn and experience the magic for yourself, you have to choose what kind of burner you will be. Everything from how you want to be a contribution to how on earth you are going to get your ass to this magical place. If you really want it, I can promise you – it will happen.
“Choosing what you want to do, and when to do it, is an act of creation.”
This was one hell of a ride, and it is worth getting to know some real burners. One time in your life (at least), we can all benefit from taking a part in this powerful community created at AfrikaBurn. To be present and experience this magic will def show you that people can do anything they desire. And they do it so beautifully together.