Kiwiburn is an annual counterculture festival focusing on radical-self expression. It is held in the small community of Hunterville, Manawatu-Wanganui, New Zealand. The Kiwiburn is New Zealand’s regional Burning Man event, so it is a participatory festival where everyone has to contribute something.

The Kiwiburn festival was founded by Mark “Yonderman” Stirling. Back in the mid-1990s he was living in Reno, Nevada doing his PhD. He and his partner discovered the famous Burning Man festival by accident while on a camping trip. Upon returning to New Zealand Stirling became the country’s regional Burning Man representative. The first regional burn in New Zealand took place in 2004 as a section of the South Island’s Visionz festival.

The participants met the inaugural regional burn with great enthusiasm, so Stirling decided to make it an annual event. In 2006, a group of enthusiastic burners joined with him to form an organizational structure. The event moved from the South Island to the North Island. Over the years, Kiwiburn has grown to become one of New Zealand’s largest festivals.

As Kiwiburn is an official regional Burning Man event, it adheres to the ten guiding principles of Burning Man: radical inclusion, gifting, decommodification, radical self-reliance, radical self-expression, communal effort, civic responsibility, leaving no trace, participation, and immediacy. These rules were originally written by Larry Harvey in 2004 as guidelines for organizing regional Burning Man events.

Theme Camps are one of Kiwiburn’s key components. They are organized by groups of participants to enhance the experience of everyone who has come to the festival. Theme Camps help burners get to know each other, which is especially important for first-time participants, and encourage them to get more involved. The festival features dozens of camps every year, some of them are recurring. Notable recurring camps include the Green Room, the Green Fairy, Wilderland, Dancealot, Balrogs, and Taradise.

Each edition of Kiwiburn has a different theme to inspire participants. Ideas are suggested by the community and then voted on by the executive committee. Past themes include Metamorphosis, Future History, Elementality, Twisted Reality, Disaster Holiday, Enlightenment, Forgotten Dreams, Wyrd, Potluck and Emotion, and The Robots Are Coming.

Just like Burning Man, Kiwiburn culminates in the burning of the Effigy and the Temple. While the burning of the Effigy is an epic party, the burning of the Temple is about quiet reflection and letting go.


Photo by Peter Jennings



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