So I’m a little late on the Afrikaburn recap. The late semester work squeeze has got me up late at nights and only just enough time to procrastinate and write blog posts. So here we go.
Afrikaburn is a five day festival (if that is the right word) that celebrates art, music, and a certain amount of peace, love and harmony. If this all sounds a little Woodstock to all of you, then you are not alone.
Afrikaburn, like its inspiration, Burning Man, is the sort of drugged-out brainchild conjured up by leftover hippies who took the lyrics to John Lennon’s “Imagine” a bit too literally.
The Burn is a cultural wasteland. If, in your travels, you wondered what became of the free-lovers, the acidheads, the New Age-ers, and the Zen Buddhists, then at Afrikaburn is where you will find your answer.
Your loopy uncle that spends his life huddled in a dusty beige RV, stoking campfires while he spouts aphorisms like a stoner-Buddha-prophet? He’s built a forge for blacksmithing that sits in the heart of Tankwa Town.
Your artsy friend from college that still lives in a one-bedroom flat and occasionally stars in an acting workshop presentation of Romeo & Juliet set in an asylum? She’s a performance art piece, dancing naked over bonfires and rollling in the stof (Afrikaans word for dirt, ground and the theme of this year’s festival).
And your slightly-off nephew that has a penchant for burning through his savings purchasing tickets for jam-band concerts and road trips under the guise of artistic expression? He’s here too, building a wooden photobooth, so that not a second will be forgotten (or underexposed).
Afrikaburn’s (and Burning Man’s) two defining characteristics are, what they call, radical self-expression and radical inclusion. The Burn aims to create a community that is organic, free-flowing and constantly changing.
Its philosophy recalls a Montessori school: provide subjects with a safe open environment and a set of tools and see what they come up with.
While many call Afrikaburn a festival (and in many ways it is), it is not one in the sense of Woodstock or Bonnaroo or that Wine & Cheese Festival you attended last month.
Outside of the administration necessary to provide basic services (toilets, security, fire safety and first-aid), the event is unmanaged.
At the center of the festival is Tankwa Town, a massive expanse built around the blueprint of a clock, the only road being the one around the rim (so that you can indicate where you are staying by saying 8 or 10 o’clock).
The camps closest to town are the most well-planned—there are massive art installations like the San Clan (the large wicker man set on fire during the night of the Big Burn) or a life-size white heel strung with neon lights (that doubles as a slide).
There are camps that double as chic cafes, providing coffee and snacks (or in the case of the “Whisky and Whores” tent, whisky and poker and a Wild-West attitude).
For those more inclined to dancing, there are an almost infinite number of areas providing live and DJ-ed music, including a fleet of independently and uniquely decorated “art cars” that bring the vibe to the crowd.
The festival is a testament to self-reliance. If you were forced to spend five days in the desert, what would you bring to entertain yourself? What would you bring to share with others?
There are no vendors at the event. Everyone brings enough for themselves and a little something to share, whatever you can or feel so inclined to. There was a camp that spent a day making vegetable curry to feed more than 100 people. Who those people were, they had no idea until they showed up.
There was a tent in the center of of Tankwa Town, built of driftwood and colorful translucent fabric where three female buddhists taught meditation to passerby, harmonizing eerie tones of “Om.” Hey, whatever floats your boat. Right?
If you come to Afrikaburn (and this applies doubly for Burning Man), be prepared to encounter the weird and the crazy. Imagine Afrikaburn as a sort of Mad-Max end of the world set up, except instead of Mel Gibson and crazy Australians trying to kill each other for oil, everyone is trying to work together to make the best of what’s there.
The end of the world is a trippy carnival, one piled with the wreckage of society’s hangers-on. Afrikaburn is the land of forgotten toys—a desert of bright colors and infinite playgrounds.
To enjoy it, you have to buy in to its conceit—pretend you are a kid again and let yourself be filled with wonder.