Written by: Daniel De Lapelin Dumont who attended AfrikaBurn
AfrikaBurn is a burgeoning arts festival in the Tankwa Karoo, on the border of the Northern and Western Capes – is framed by the South African public holidays of Freedom Day (27 April) and Worker’s Day (1 May). Affiliated with the long-established Burning Man in the USA, the AfrikaBurn ethos is founded on eleven principles that speak a new way of communal being, where nothing – bar a daily supply of ice – is bought or sold and where self-expression and self-reliance are radically essential to proceedings.
Burners (as participants are known) are required to take all their own supplies and carry away all their rubbish when they leave. Costumes are an essential part of the fun and this year belly dancing hip scarves (shakiras) and American-Indian headdresses were popular and for some, nudity is de riguer.
Entertainment also needs to be provided by the Burners themselves. 2014 saw well over 100 theme camps on the Binnekring and a whole host of mutant vehicles – mobile art cars and trucks in all shapes, forms and sounds. Creating a theme camp is a large undertaking involving a lot of planning, funding and logistical effort – just to get it there.
The journey to AfrikaBurn is very much part of the experience, from Cape Town it takes approximately 4-5 hours, depending on the vehicle used. The R355 dirt road route (between Ceres and Calvinia) to the festival is notorious amongst drivers with many suffering blow-outs and punctures due to sharp stones. Found within the succulent Karoo biome, Tankwa is a desolate, arid moonscape with some of the brightest stars at night. The festival site borders a national park.
The 2014 theme was The Trickster, and the weather certainly played an interesting hand. The days were sweltering and the nights balmy, so none of the big coats that were packed following a chilly 2013 were needed. The dust, however, is a given, and this year it came in spades.
9000 people witnessed gigantic artworks: Reflection (head, arms and torso) and the ‘Clan’ The Interpreter burn to the ground. Subterrafuge, comprising of six conical towers referencing the threat of hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’, dominated the skyline. Many of the artworks were interactive and participatory including parades and performance works.
Burners feasted on morning coffee, live music performances, sundowners and unrelenting pulsing beats through the night from the dance tents and trucks, in this gift economy. This year’s festival had a very international feel with many languages and accents being heard.