The symbol of AfrikaBurn, the San Clan, burns on Saturday night.
A very long way from home, on a muddy dirt road that stretches for miles into the Karoo, lies a magical place, a mirage in the desert, where radical self-reliance and radical self-expression are the cornerstones that guide this community of revellers.
Welcome to AfrikaBurn. From 25 to 30 April, Tankwa Town — a temporary city on a dusty desert plain — has been home to a group of participants who set up colourful theme camps: the yellow comfort of The Land of Soft Things at Judy Park, the deep tunes at Wonderleka Woeskus Desert Daizies. It is home to outrageously-dressed folk driving mutant vehicles like striped fish towing furry couches, a flame spitting cannon, a two-wheeled unicorn, kite-powered skateboards. To artists who create sculptures and burning structures – a life size T-Rex, an iconic obelisk, boxing bunnies, a wire origami bird, a giant bench big enough for 20 bums, a temple filled with hopes and thoughts and dreams, all for the five days of AfrikaBurn.
This annual festival, an offshoot of Burning Man in the US, is no ordinary gathering. The 10 guiding principles advocate self-sustainability, creativity, participation, civic responsibility, giving without expecting anything in return and leaving no trace of your presence. Burners bring what they will need – water, food, shade – and prepare to wonder at the dream world that springs up each April.
Of course it makes perfect sense to dress up in the desert. To put on a furry white jacket and giant sunglasses, to don a bright red wig and feathered mask, to shake your tail of peacock feathers, to paint your naked body, to wear only a hat, to be the Tin Man or a dung beetle or a dragon or a kaleidoscope of colours. To smile at strangers and share friendly hugs. To dance under an expansive sky, with your feet squelching in a puddle of mud.
Of course it makes perfect sense that there would be a fully functional camera obscura next to a makeshift tennis court and a bubble making machine, a forest of umbrellas, a meditative labyrinth, a giant aloe.
In this world without rules and boundaries, where your imagination is the limit and every crazy idea is greeted with enthusiasm, the wild and wacky make perfect sense and are all exciting gifts to share.
Left: A giant aloe shines on the playa. Right: Dressed up in the desert
BY STACEY NEL