It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve come back from Tankwa Town in the Karoo of South Africa’s Northern Cape Province, and still my first AfrikaBurn experience sends a tingle down my spine …
For nowhere else (apart from the original hedonistic Burning Man art festival in Reno, Nevada, and yes I have been to that one too) can you be a part of an entire temporary city developing out of nothing and be completely free from the normality of your life with all its stresses, barrage of technology and of course money.
It is quite refreshing to be in a place where cash doesn’t play a part (you can’t actually buy anything except ice at AfrikaBurn, and you have to bring everything with you to the desert, as well as take everything back home) … no news feeds, emails, WhatsApp messages, tweets, FB messages or phone calls. Just the dry, arid desert landscape that the Karoo is famous for peppered with rocks and shrubs and the incredible backdrop of the well-known Cedarberg mountain range in the west.
Yet once a year this desert landscape magically transforms into an incredible transient city filled with thousands of revelers with hauntingly beautiful art installations rising from the ground in the most spectacular shapes and colours. One such art installation called ‘Subterrafuge’ literally takes your breath away as you enter the AfrikaBurn gates. This sculptural statement against fracking in the Karoo took a crew of more than 20 volunteers more than two and a half months to painstakingly construct out of timber, each of the 6 spikes ranging in height from 4 to 30 meters.
AfrikaBurn is built out of the imaginations of its thousands of participants and the creativity of the art structures, costumes, theme camps and ‘mutant vehicles’ (anything that comes in the form of a motorized vehicle or bike that has been transformed into mobile art be it a shark, tarantula or even a rhino) is truly something incredible to behold. I was lucky enough to be a part of the ‘Love Your Planet’ theme camp with its now famous Loki, The Rampaging Rhino mutant vehicle.
South Africa’s version of ‘Black Rock City’ (or the city that is created out of the Burning Man festival) is a pretty good spin-off of the original and is arguably the best of over a hundred burning events held worldwide. It comes as no surprise that the entertainment site Buzzfeed described AfrikaBurn as ‘like Burning Man, but better’. And I tend to agree. It’s far smaller and more intimate (10 000 vs. 50 000), and even though Black Rock City boasts more ‘mutant vehicles’ and has a much more developed ‘gifting economy’ it feels like the African version has more soul. As one Burner (who had religiously attended Burning Man for 12 consecutive years) put it, she had heard that AfrikaBurn was what Burning Man had once been, and that was why she was here.
Then there is also the fact that the Karoo offers some of the most spectacular sunsets in South Africa, and all in all you have a winning recipe. As one of our friends put it ‘there simply is no better fun than the AfrikaBurn experience’!
But judge for yourself. Here are a few photographs that capture some of the colour, freedom and magic that is the AfrikaBurn experience.