The best festival in the world: Afrikaburn 2012

Posted by Sarah Duff on 2 May 2012 Tags:, ,

The sun was setting over the desert plains, silhouetting a line of rhinos against the purpling sky as a hooded monk raced past on a power skateboard. A pink dragon sporadically blasted a tunnel of fire out of its mouth as some flower-encrusted girls danced to the beats of a drumming circle. It was at this point that I decided that I wanted to stay at AfrikaBurn forever.

As a newbie to Afrikaburn 2012, I hadn’t really known what to expect. It ended up being the best festival I have ever been to.

After a long, but scenic drive on the N1 and a bone-jangling trek on the 130-km long dirt road to Stonehenge Farm which is just about as in the middle of nowhere as you can get, we arrived at Tankwa Town, the impermanent Afrikaburn village. As newbies, my friends and I were invited to hit a gong at the entrance to mark our initiation into what was to be a a mind-bendingly spectcular experience that we could not have prepared ourselves for.

Tankwa Town springs up in the Karoo desert each year, and becomes a surreal gathering of art, music, self-expression and crazy outfits for six days. There are themed camps, ranging from the Thunderdomecuddlebubble (‘a loving space of hammocks and soft things’) and Bad Toy Town, to Space Cowboys (a ‘Dusty Hangout for Weary Astro Travellers’) and the Cosmic Groove Lounge, set around a huge circle in which art works and installations are erected. Mutant vehicles – crazily decorated cars and trucks – such as a purple snail and a giant ship, criss cross the circle in between yoga lessons, miniature chess sets, a bobbing for apples game, a maze made from string and thousands of festival-goers in the most incredible outfits.

Now in its sixth year, AfrikaBurn takes its inspiration from the Burning Man festival, which draws 50 000 people to the Black Rock Desert in Nevada desert each year. The South African counterpart has a tenth of those numbers, but according to people who’ve been to the original ‘Burn’, the same amount of energy and awesomeness. Like Burning Man, there’s no money exchanged at AfrikaBurn: participants take everything they need in the desert, from tents, water and food to costumes and face paint. A spirit of gifting is encouraged, and it was heart warming to see so many amazing gifts being shared: two girls cooking up batches of French toast on Saturday morning, and egg rolls being handed out to sorely hungover people for breakfast, cinnamon cookies given out by someone dressed in a silver space outfit, and countless others. I got a ‘magical’ stone from a wandering nomad, fortune cookies that only had good fortunes on them. Just as everyone brings all they need to the festival, they’re responsible for taking it all away. I was amazed at not seeing a scrap of rubbish lying around all weekend (including cigarette butts). Afrikaburn ended yesterday, and by the end of the week there will be nothing left of the crazy town that sprung up in the middle of the desert. That’s kind of mind-boggling in itself.

And some stuff gets burned. Apart from the giant San Clan tower that burned on Saturday night, my favourite ‘burning’ was of a dancing bear held up on ropes. Despite loving the artworks, the incredible themed camps, the fantastic music (Toby2Shoes on the mobile dance floor was epic) my highlight of Afrikaburn was the people. I’ve never been around such amazing generosity and kindness – I didn’t come across one aggressive, antagonistic person for the whole festival. I loved the anything-goes vibe – nothing looked ‘weird’ or ‘strange’, no one looked twice when two girls got naked on the dance floor one night, you don’t get any dodgy looks for doing a solo dance in a yellow feather boa – it really was the only place I’ve ever been to where you can be totally free.

Shredding one of my Clio’s tyres on the notoriously bad road out of AfrikaBurn (we were warned that the 130-km long road eats tyres for breakfast) didn’t dampen our spirits as we reluctantly left the festival. I felt like my mind had been re-calibrated, and even though returning to the ‘real world’ was hard, I took a bit of Afrikaburn with me.

I can’t wait for next year.

 

 

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