Burnt To A Crisp And Quite Happily So

By Travis Lyle a.k.a DJ Hedmekanik
Saturday Evening, when the chocolate brownie madness kicked in...

The Tankwa Karoo might as well be Mars. For a start, it sure as hell looks like those photos that have been beamed back from the Phoenix mission – it’s a stark and unforgiving landscape, whipped to within an inch of its life by howling winds, lorded over by a merciless sun and peppered with red and black volcanic rock. Why the hell would anyone in their right mind go there? Because AfrikaBurn is held out there on those inhospitable flatlands, that’s why. How inhospitable? Very, as in ‘baked to a crisp every summer for the past 114 million years’. Unlike Mars though, there is life there – fluffy yellow mesembryanthemum (vygie) flowers that smell amazingly like ylang-ylang make an annual appearance, as do armour-plated koringkrieks (which definitely look alien) and praying mantises which sport distinctly alien headgear. And then of course, once a year there are those who attend AfrikaBurn – and you’d be forgiven for thinking that some of them are from another planet. But then that’s precisely the reason to go to a Burn – some of them might look like freaks, but by god, they’re some of the best people you’ll ever meet.

As Africa’s very own Burning Man satellite event, AfrikaBurn brings the wildest, wackiest, most imaginative (and balls-to-the-wall dedicated) bunch of nutters together under the Burn banner. For those who are still a bit foggy about what exactly AfrikaBurn is, allow me to illuminate your gloomy bonce: AfrikaBurn is the African spawn of the Burning Man festival, that almighty freakdown which is held each year at the end of August in Nevada, on the alkali lake of the Black Rock Desert. What started out as an art-inspired ‘invent’ (as opposed to an event) back in the late 80s and featured a bunch of San Franciscan nutters dressing up, throwing off the shackles of normal life and erecting art installations which are ritualistically burnt. It goes without saying (what a perfectly odd expression) that, with any likely group of creatively-inclined nuts, there’s music, dancing, dressing up and all the traditional shenanigans that go with the territory. In these respects, AfrikaBurn is a faithful local version of B-Man, with all the obligatory bells, whistles and incineration of laboriously erected artpieces that go with it. And my god, are there bells and whistles. From the four-storey mindfuck art construction that was The Wish (a beautiful vision of interlinked white circles which made up a majestic domed temple) to the ten-metre flame-belching steel vuvuzela’s of Camp Vuvuzela, to the anti-GM construction of recycled sodapop bottles and LED’s that made up Amaize, on to the eclectic musical menu of Camp AmaDeadlyDisco (that was us, from Durban and the KZN Midlands. Five of us, squeezed into a VW Transporter, with a sound system, stretch tents, poles, 170 litres of water, food for a week and a lust for the jol. Yes folks, we AmaDeadlies weren't going to let a little thing like a 3 700-km round trip stand in the way of taking the jol on safari. Hell, no.), the massed-band drumming and all-embracing atmosphere of Camp Partycipation, the Tex-Mex theme, music and double-strength cocktail menu of Desert Rose or the…sweet baby Jesus laying in the manger, there was simply a mindboggling array of things to see and do out there on that Martian plain. It’s no walk in the park, and it’s a world away from the same-old story of your regular festivals, which mostly consist of a predictable formula: pissed punters camping band pissed musicians playing on stages manned by pissed technicians.

No, there’s no doubt about it – AfrikaBurn is in a league of its own, by virtue of its turning convention on its head. For a start, there’s the adherence to the principles that have made Burning Man such a runaway success in the States: instead of an experience that simply dresses consumerism in a festival cloak for a period of three days or so and plonks it in an outdoor setting, as so many festivals do – and I’m not knocking those that do, because they have their place - a Burn is all about participation, creativity, imagination, expression and freedom. As a punter, you make the jol happen – whether you set up a dancefloor for the enjoyment of all, create a temporary artpiece that is ultimately incinerated, dress up, re-engineer your car into a mobile art installation or indeed do whatever it is that takes your fancy. And no, that doesn’t mean you can stick one of those godawful brightly-coloured velvet jester hats on your pip and walk around with your buddies making sexist remarks at anything fine that crosses your path. In fact, that kind of behaviour is the last thing you’re gonna see at a Burn, because why? Because that’s the kinda attitude a Burn seeks to liberate punters from. And that, dear reader, is just dandy as far as I’m concerned.

Which is why we'll be there next year, for round two of the AmaDeadly Disco.

(This article originally published [with minor alterations] on Levi's Original Music Mag)

7 comments so far.

  1. Anonymous October 28, 2008 at 10:32 AM
    Travis, thank you for your report. Not only entertainingly spirited, but educational too: I shall have to update my posts with some of you botanical insights.

    I'm sorry we didn't meet, it shall have to be next time, sunhigh o'clock, binnekring right.

    Congrats to you and the crew on such a trek. If you are in CT be sure to look us at Sanctuary up. We're real chillheads compared to the likes of you, tho'.

    I have included your blog in the syncro - see http://soundandsilence.wordpress.com/2008/10/20/ab-08-scorecard-syncroblog/ for details.

    Nic @ Sanctuary (soundandsilence)
  2. Travis Lyle a.k.a DJ Hedmekanik October 28, 2008 at 10:37 AM
    Hey Nic, and thanks for the inclusion on the synchroblog.

    Man. What a wild experience. Gonna take another 6 months to get the dust to settle.

  3. Travis Lyle a.k.a DJ Hedmekanik October 28, 2008 at 10:40 AM
    Oh - p.s: Look out for two more articles on the Burn in SL and Chew
    ( http://www.chewthemagazine.com/ ).

  4. Anonymous October 31, 2008 at 3:16 PM
    I have taken note of your 170litres of water and food for a week.

    We chatted about what to take and what not to take. We decided that man can in fact live on dried fruit and tea. We will leave food at home next year. We took 200 litres of water we hardly used any of it, although it came in handy when the transportation decided to say howzit on a desolate piece of road approaching Calvinia.

    Suffice to say the trusty Land Cruiser is still in Calvinia and next weekend I will have to travel 1200 kms back to the Karoo hitch it up and drag its heavy ass all the way back. this is a good thing, i loved the last drive.

    Next year:
    less food, more energetic land cruiser, more insanity.
  5. Travis Lyle a.k.a DJ Hedmekanik October 31, 2008 at 3:51 PM
    Hello Anonymous -

    Dried fruit & tea...could result in jippo guts, you'll need more fibre, a possibility is instant oats or something, very convenient. Personally I ate 800 grams of biltong - compact, an excellent source of protein and dry as all hell but not an option if you're vegetarian of course.
    We also had water to take back...I kinda think it best to have too much - at least if you have extra you can splurge on a makeshift shower on the last day.
    But you might be right on the food front - we took too much (although it didn't weigh much, being crackers and peanuts and and and) and have only eaten our way through it all.
    Sorry to hear about your Landy, helluva thing, but as you say, what a lovely drive.

    Cheers, all the best, and see you next year!
  6. nic February 2, 2009 at 5:38 PM
    BTW, "anonymous landykiller" is hedgehog, my fearsomely competent driver and mechanic (vehicular, not head) who told his non compos mentis co-driver (i.e. me) that my consistent moaning about a feasome noise and heat emanating from the engine bay was, "Just the load settling".
    After a minor explosion lead us to deduce that PERHAPS something WAS wrong with the cruiser - please note: this was just before dark on the gravel road between AB and Calvinia - we pulled over and called for help on our cells.

    Guess what? The bastardly, dastardly, depraved cellhphone whoreco's don't regard the Tankwa as a major cellular growth area adn there wasn't even the tiniest smidgen of a signal.

    Yours totally useless and fruitcaked self was duly dispatched up the nearest mountain (Why me? Cos I was wearing short pant) to find a cell signal / call for help / meet a nice lady sheep / get lost / what have you.

    Well, lemme tell ya, those wee karoo bushies do a shitload of damage when you come charging down a mountain side in the dark... after locating a sum total of fackall signal on 3 different phones.

    Anyway, to make a long story even longer, when I got back to the vehicle, hedgehog had arrange for a few deliverance types to...i dunno, what was it again?...not roger us repeatedly AND to call for the local towtruck operator to come and deliver us from EEEEEVIL.

    Yeehaw!!! SAVED!!! THe most trusty japanese vehicle actually DROVE to Calvinia, but as we were leaving the last gas station in town, we had a rather larger explosion (possibly the head gasket returning to its great foundry in the sky) and we were well and farked.

    However, the great Lomo was looking after us and we managed to locate suitable digs within walking distance of the Jaagvlak Motors garage (note: no longer a toyota dealer but close as dammit).

    The next day rose, sweltering and cloudless...a quick trip to the calvinia museum lead to nasty accusation vis-a-vis MY family being a bunch a facken dutchmen. Hedgehog quickly averted a major fracas with his legal representative when he purchased me a burger and shake at the world renown Jaagvlak Motors Sit and Stay or Take Away Restaurant and Shoppe...

    We were saved by a bloke in Khaki, with a large truck and an even larger beard...but THAT is a story for another day.

    Hope to see ya at AB09 - which, of course, is wholly dependant on yours most truly actually keeping his huge, planet-sized head attached to his body.


    Senor Neek / AKA Suicide Bomber / AKA Guantanamo Bay Inmate
  7. Abi Case February 3, 2009 at 9:11 AM
    Hehe. Sounds like a right Kalifornia/No U-Turn experience! Keep your eye on the prize and try not to make too much eye contact with the lokals...if you can help it.
    We had a bit of hairy eyeball in Vic West - my wife the Mixin Vixin is kinda heavily tattoo'd - when we wnet shopping at the Spar...coulda ended badly, but we hightailed it outta Dodge before.
    We're definitely gonna be at AB09 - the AmaDeadlies are gagging to be back on that Martian plain, speaking Nurdzigub at high speed and playing an eclectic selection of kickass tunes, oh yes.
    Can't fucking wait. See you then!

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