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Afrikaburn Festival near Tankwa Karoo National Park
The dusty Karoo desert comes alive to host one of the most radical festivals on the festival lover’s calendar
Afrikaburn, South Africa’s answer to the legendary American Burning Man Festival, is back in the dusty Karoo for an extended seven days of art, music, performance and creative expression from 29 April to 5 May 2019.
Set in the arid, semi-desert Northern Cape on a private farm called Stonehenge (roughly 300km from Cape Town), the other-worldly affair calls on free spirits to gather and create a temporary city (Tankwa Town) based on the radical; radical art, radical self-expression, radical self-reliance and, above all else, the radical sense of unity that exists between the ‘Burners’ people that attend each year.
CORE OF THE 2019 AFRIKABURN ARTS FESTIVAL
The ethos of the old festival comes from a set of ten guiding principles that encourage, amongst other things, communal effort, decommodification and total expression of the self. This means that, whether it’s in the form of an extravagant costume, provision of basic essentials (like food and drink) or a twisted piece of art, contributions to the spirit and function of Tankwa Town are expected from everyone. Money is no object in the temporary city as nothing is for sale, and generally, if you want something, you trade for it or ask for it. Afrikaburn fosters giving and letting go of material goods to enjoy the outdoors and reclaim some essence of human nature.
WHAT HAPPENS AT THE 2019 AFRIKABURN ARTS FESTIVAL?
Every year, Afrikaburn has a theme; in 2019, the theme is Ephemerality, the concept of things being transitory, existing only briefly. The desert experience was never meant to be easy, or a holiday. This gathering requires every citizen of Tankwa Town pitches up and pitches in. In order to celebrate the values that the festival has carried throughout its history; here are some of the ways that one can use to represent this theme:
• The way you dress – Be unique and playful in the way you dress. You could use this chance to wear ‘that thing’ that you’re afraid to wear in public.
• A mutant vehicle – a motorised, significantly modified vehicle (a bike, a car) that’s a piece of moveable art and only allowed to go at 10km/h, for the purpose of play try a unicycle or a clown-car.
• Theme camps – interactive camps set up to welcome, engage and entertain fellow Burners. In this case, camps can follow the theme of Working Title by incorporating something fun, colourful and out-of-the-box into their camps (or supplying materials out of which fellow Burners can create fun things).
• Art installations – pretty much anything that you can dream up and execute in the Karoo. In light of the theme, Burners can create interactive installations allowing passers-by to take a piece of Afrikaburn with them.
When it comes to entertainment, it’s completely up to you, the participant, to bring whatever talents you have, because you are not just the audience; you are also part of the show. Remember that this is not to show which one can outshine the other, it’s about having fun. Play around!
There is no ‘main stage’ and no power supply. So, a random piece of desert or one of the theme camps can become an elaborate set if you want it to be. Every kind of act is welcome as long as it doesn’t interfere with anyone else’s good time, and a party can pop up wherever the party people are. On the last night, the burning of the San Clan, a sculptural representation of a piece of San rock art signifying unity and community, illuminates the desert sky and marks the end of another rad seven days.
WHAT TO BRING TO THE 2019 AFRIKABURN ARTS FESTIVAL
In short, everything.
Six days of fire and festivities can be hectic to say the least, but with no on-site vendors and no access to nearby shops and stores, it’s crucial to be adequately prepared. Do not expect to rock up with beers and a Bar One and survive.
People are encouraged to bring a minimum of five litres of water per person per day, enough food and supplies to sustain you for a week in the Karoo, sunscreen, a wind-proof tent (including heavy duty pegs and a hammer) and a bicycle (essential). Most important is the adherence to the concept of Leave No Trace Behind – everything that you bring, you must be able to take with you, and no damage should be done to the natural environment.
It’s worth noting that the camps are also divided into the blue zone, which is quiet and family-friendly, and the red zone, which is for those who can stand a little more noise and action through the night.
DIRECTIONS TO THE 2019 AFRIKABURN ARTS FESTIVAL
• Take the N1 North, passing Paarl, Worcester and De Doorns
• 10km before you reach Touwsrivier and 160km from Cape Town, take the left turn onto the R46, towards Ceres. Note, Worcester and Touwsrivier are your last chances for petrol and supplies
• The road continues for approx. 40km and ends in a T-junction. Turn right onto the R355 towards Calvinia and Sutherland. Approx. 100m on, you’ll hit dirt road; stay on this for 113km
• Stay on the R355 towards Calvinia
• The road ends in a T-junction – turn right into Stonehenge Farm
TICKETS FOR THE 2019 AFRIKABURN FESTIVAL
Keep an eye on the tickets page on the Afrikaburn website for announcements.
Photograph credits: Simon O'Callaghan, Egon Tania and the Fata Morganas, and Simon Furlong
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