Dates: 27th April - 3rd May 2020
Location: Stonehenge Private Reserve
Nr.Tankwa Karoo Desert, South Africa
South Africa’s hot and dusty Tankwa Karoo desert plays host to this extraordinary regional offshoot to America’s Burning Man festival every year. Here a group of radical and fun-loving individuals meet to celebrate and rejoice in creative expression, idealism and ephemeral art, in the sanctity of a like-minded community of friends. Attended by thousands of people, this extraordinary affair retains a strong sense of neighbourly kinship and cooperation.
Several hours north of Cape Town, the Stonehenge Private Reserve opens its doors annually, around May Day, to let in the ‘Burners’. Astonishing sculptures and installations dot the landscape, whilst mutant vehicles (as per Burning Man) and fantastically costumed characters wander the desert. AfrikaBurn was brought to existence in 2007, and is considered by many to be the equivalent of its American parent, only a few years ago, before it got so big.
Run on many of the same values; the ten (actually – eleven) guiding principles of the festival are a strong part of the festival experience. First is that of radical inclusion; everyone is welcome to take part, no matter who they are. Second, gifting; giving without expecting anything in return. Third; decommodification, to encourage gifting and other acts of selflessness and community – the removal of commercialism from life, no sponsorships or advertising; rather a participatory experience. Radical self-reliance comes fourth; that all individuals should “discover, exercise and rely on your own resources” – this is a lesson on self-identity discovery. Fifth, radical self-expression, another facet of self-discovery – here the unique gifts of each person are celebrated and accepted. Sixth: communal effort; to recognise yourself as part of a larger whole. Seventh; civic responsibility; your duty to abide by the expectations and laws of your community. Eight, leaving no trace; in fact, to leave an improvement. Ninth; participation; only through deep and meaningful self-participation can changes be made; achieve through doing. Tenth, immediacy; the value of an immediate experience, to overcome the barriers that stand between us so a thing can be felt in its purest form. Finally, ‘Each One Teach One’ – the joint responsibility of all Burners to act as cultural custodians, and spread the good word.
Another parallel element is the large sculpture; like The Man, the sculpture of the San Clan is also burnt, though is made up of multiple figures in glyph form, to represent the sense of community and unity, and as a nod to the San people of the Karoo desert. There are multiple theme camps speckling the scenery, whilst the ubiquitous bicycles in their Sunday best roll on across the desert floor. There are healing camps and mindfulness workshops, programmes on wellbeing and the like. ‘Each one teach one’ fosters the idea that all peoples unique gifts should be shared and passed on; so there’s no end to what you might learn. As we mentioned earlier, participants are encouraged to create their own mutant vehicles; often related to the theme that is set every year.
There are also strong reminders about ‘survival kits’ – everything you could possibly need in order to remain comfortable safe during five days in the desert. Being so far away from anywhere else, it is essential you stuck up on essentials before arrival. This doesn’t just include beer and baby wipes – have a look at their website for the list.
Camping in the desert can be an arduous experience; though one enormously lightened by adhering to sensible suggestions. Boutique camping is not an option at Afrikaburn due to its commercial nature; nevertheless, we would always recommend you make your camping experience as comfortable as possible.