For The Hell Of It

By Travis Lyle a.k.a DJ Hedmekanik
Image courtesy of

So we’re going to AfrikaBurn. Yes folks, we’ve got our tickets and we’re taking the jol on tour. Disco In The Desert. Party On The Playa. Opskop Oppie Vlaktes. Bohemians In The Bush. Although there’s precious little bush out on the baking flatlands of the Tankwa Karoo, which is where it’s held this year from October 16th to 19th. Tankwa is in the Northern Cape, about...16 hours drive from Durban, due west.

For those who’re not familiar with AfrikaBurn, allow me: AfrikaBurn is a South African satellite event of the mightiest free-zone freakdown on this here god-blindingly beautiful planet - Burning Man, which is held in the States each Labor Day Weekend on the salt flats of the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. Which is…next weekend, if I’m not mistaken. Burning Man has its origins in the late 80s (and had precedent before that, if Wikipedia has it right), when SanFran artist and general raconteur Larry Harvey (with a little help from his friends) erected and burnt an effigy at Baker Beach. A few years later in 1990 a group of performers and artists created an event called Zone Trip #4, out on the salt flats of the Black Rock Desert. The two groups came together, and voila! Burning Man was created. The result? Every year a growing number of people come together and have themselves a regular old time shit-kicking jol, at which they dress up, create art installations, burn the ‘man’, dance about like loons and invoke the various spirits of their neomystical hippie universe. As you do.

Fun and games, then, with décor to match, a purpose and some pyrotechnics. In so doing they were in sympathy with ancient practices that are continued to this day the world over in various forms; that of using fire to send forth wishes or banish evil, bad omens, or just perhaps to get closure. After all, who among us can say they haven’t indulged in a little post-breakup cleansing? Thought as much. But I digress. The salt flats of Nevada, much like the Tankwa Karoo where AfrikaBurn is held, are an unforgiving environment to say the least, but are also the kind of place where nobody bats an eyelid if you want to cycle around in the skin you’re in or want to build a hundred-metre mugwump outta carbon steel tubing, just for the hell of it. This is the headspace that’s attracted so many people to Burning Man (so much so that it’s now Nevada’s tenth-largest city, albeit temporary), and made a success of last years’ inaugural AfrikaBurn. Just like the granddaddy event in the US, our homegrown freakdown features wild and spectacular art installations, themed and decked-out camps, unrestrained displays of celebration, awesome music and of course the burning of the huge man; all set off and created as a result of, and pursued with, an overwhelming sense of freedom.

Judging by the photos and the grapevine tales, a bunch of upstanding and well-adjusted folks are steering the AfrikaBurn ship, making for a fine time for all. You can do anything (within reason) out there - be anyone, let loose your voodoo. Or play every single disc in your DJ box, twice, if that grabs you. Which is what we’ll be doing at AfrikaBurn, among other things - setting up a sound system, mixing drinks, handing out umbrellas (there's no commerce at this jol, it's a gifting economy) and generally meeting like-minded nutters. Seems there’s an awful lot to see and do, and an awful lot of nice, likely-looking folks to hang out with, perhaps on a mobile couch, while engaging in some light banter over a three-course sundowner of absinthe, mojitos and tequila. We’re gonna need a lot of shade (stretchy tents with industrial-grade staves, check) because it’s Fucking Hot out there and there are Perilous Whirlwinds. We’ll also need to bring everything we need and take it all away, as all the Burn principles apply. Which suits us down to the ground. We’ll need a lot of water, a generator, sound, lights, easyshades, sun cream, dust goggles and be prepared to weather some extremes in temperature. The only thing provided are portaloos, and as the nearest shop is a hundred and something k’s away, everything will have to be thought of carefully before we find ourselves going ‘Oh shit, I left the..…at the pozzi.’ Everything. It’s gonna be one helluva journey. But then as the Good Doctor said: Buy the ticket, take the ride. And we have bought the tickets.

Free your mind and your ass will follow! In the name of the Jol, the whole Jol and nothing but the Jol!

Tankwa Town, here we come!

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