We go to sleep early and wake up to realise that AfrikaBurn is really starting today! During the whole day we see new people arrive and every spot where a tent could possibly fit is taken. We get some good coffee at the Alienz, a theme-camp that makes you a cappuccino or espresso in exchange for a compliment. Right next to the coffee tent is the Pancake Posse tent where we patiently wait for our pancakes while the volunteers are running around trying to serve everyone.
Below we will try to describe the feeling of and ideas behind AfrikaBurn.
Tickets: half a year before AfrikaBurn starts the tickets are up for sale. These 12.000 tickets are sold out quickly, months before the festival even starts. To be able to buy tickets you have to make a profile and fill in a questionnaire that makes you aware of the nature of the festival. In the weeks before the Burn, there is a re-selling of the tickets. People who bought tickets, but can’t make it anymore get a chance to hand in their tickets which will then be resold again for them by the organisation.
Got tickets? Then it’s time to start thinking on how to get to the AfrikaBurn location which is in the middle of the Tankwa desert. It takes you at least 5 hours driving from Cape Town over a road that starts out as a tar road, but most of it is gravel, layered with a lot of dust. The dirt road is heavily corrugated and covered with sharp stones that are just waiting to empty your tires…
Got transport? From the moment your drive into “Tankwa Town”, money is of no use. Advertising is prohibited and nothing is for sale (except for ice). You will have to be self sufficient for at least 7 days (food, water, camping gear) or hope for the generosity of others.
You made it! What can you expect?
I think the AfrikaBurn days are best described as a beautiful spring day, like the first warm day of the year. Slowly, the parks in the city fill up with people, but this time everyone is dressed up as if they are joining the Gay Parade. Everyone walks around with snacks, wine, rugs, skirts, umbrellas against the sun and happy faces. Unlike the cityparks there are activities all around. There is no set program so everyone walks, drives or catches a lift (on a mutant vehicle) until they find something they like. The diversity is immense, from art to theatre, dancing, music, eating, drinking, doodling, creating or just hanging around. These activities are offered by theme camps. These group camps are usually run by a group of friends and have a certain theme. A couple of examples: a hot outdoor shower, a spa, a library, a coffee tent, lectures, a post office, a pancake tent, making art tent and several places with Djs or bands playing.
At night some of the mutant vehicles and themecamps change into music platforms. The vehicles carry a DJ stand, lights and huge speakers. You just walk around until you find one that plays the music you like.
The largest and most famous of these drive-around-Djs is the Spirit Train. The Spirit Train is a tractor with 5 carriages where the middle one is DJ booth.
AfrikaBurn starts on a Monday and on Thursday night the first Burns begin. The small and large wooden artworks are set on fire while the public sits around in a large circle to watch. Most of these artworks are really build to burn, and you only see that when they are lit and the different sorts of wood burn at different times which makes for some spectacular sights.