AfrikaBurn is an official Burning Man regional event. It is held every year in the Tankwa Karoo National Park in South Africa that lies about 70 km due west of Sutherland. The festival is a community of volunteers who come together once a year to create art, burning structures, theme camps, music, performance, mutant vehicles, and more.

Burning Man is an annual counterculture festival held in Black Rock Desert, Nevada, United States. Its immense popularity has encouraged enthusiasts all over the world to hold similar events. The first regional Burning Man event was organized in 2007 by Paul Jorgensen and a group of friends. They founded Africa Burns Creative Projects (AfrikaBurn), a not-for-profit company that runs and manages the festival.

AfrikaBurn is held on an isolated private farm called Stonehenge, which is adjacent to the Tankwa Karoo National Park. Originally a relatively modest event with about 1,000 participants, its attendance has been growing steadily. The 2016 festival attracted over 11,000 burners from all over the country.

AfrikaBurn is guided by eleven key principles. Ten of them were formulated by Larry Harvey, the founder of Burning Man, as guidelines for regional organizing. They are radical inclusion, gifting, decommodification, radical self-reliance, radical self-expression, communal effort, civic responsibility, leaving no trace, participation, and immediacy. The eleventh principle, Each One Teach One, was added by African burners. It encourages the sharing of knowledge with other people and spreading the cultural ethos of Burning Man.

Like other festivals of its kind, AfrikaBurn is held in a temporary community erected by the participants. This temporary city is called Tankwa Town. It features impressive artworks, spectacular performances by artists of all kinds, theme camps designed to engage and entertain other participants, live music, mutant vehicles, and much more. All events and activities are organized by the participants and for the participants.

Each festival has a theme designed to serve as a source of inspiration for the burners. They can use the theme while creating their installations, performances and theme camps, but they don’t have to if they don’t want to. Past themes have included Tribe, Power, Time, Dream, Stof: the Primal Mud, Mirage, Archetypes, The Trickster, The Gift, X, and Play.

A lot of sculptures are burned at the end of the festival, although artists don’t have to burn their works if they’d rather preserve them. The main sculpture at AfrikaBurn is called the San Clan. It is derived from an image of group of people found in San rock art and symbolizes the idea of unity and community as one. The burning of the San Clan is the culmination of the festival.


Photo: Janneke Westsrate




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