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)