The “About” tab on the event’s website describes it as a “community of participation”, which loosely translates to a massive gathering where just about anything goes, as long as it is dreamed up and executed by the participants. Consequently, if you have dreamt of it you will likely find it present in some form at AfrikaBurn. Music, art, exhibitions, performances, relaxation areas, dance floors, mutant cars and a multitude of unnameable entities appear to fill just about every square centimetre of the small expanse of desert which the event occupies. Sounds glamorous, right? Wrong.
On the flipside of the concept of participation lies one of the key aspects of this gathering: there is no money. AfrikaBurn is a decommodified zone with a gift-based economy. Everything you may need must be crammed into the back of a hatchback on top of the usual festival luggage for the one day trek to the Northern Cape. Five litres of water per person per day, camping equipment, all your food and something awesome which can be gifted (not exchanged) must be brought along. In other words, the usual Oppikoppi packing list consisting of three cooler boxes of beer, a pillow and a packet of Bar Ones will not suffice. Likewise, a bakkie loaned from a relative might serve as a more suitable chariot to deliver your food, friends and supplies to the event’s venue, known as TankwaTown.
However, if you are willing to brave the big bad desert with nothing but wit and preparation as your means to stay alive, a pleasant surprise lies in store. AfrikaBurn is nothing short of eclectic and is filled with themed camps, sculptures and pop up parties created and attended by participants donning every garment imaginable, with some wearing nothing at all.
Whatever your opinion, and despite criticisms of elitism and wastefulness, AfrikaBurn is undoubtedly a marvel of community involvement, artistic expression and creative escapism. It might just be the most exciting addition to your festival itinerary for the year.
Illustration: Monrique Hennig