17 April 2012 by Julienne du Toit

Let’s have no MOOP

What happens when a few thousand people intent on radical self-expression gather to party and burn things in the desert? They’d leave the place will be trashed, right? Actually, it’s not what you’d expect.

MOOP is matter out of place at AfrikaBurn. Photo: Dirk van Rensburg.

Ever been to a music or other kind of festival the day after it’s happened? Chances are you it will look like a war zone. Not at AfrikaBurn, however.

This festival, now in its 5th year, takes place at the end of April in a part of the country that can safely be called the middle of nowhere. The Tankwa Karoo between Ceres and Calvinia really does present a special kind of desert nothingness.

Let your creative spirit run wild at AfrikaBurn. Photo Chris Marais

After its first year, the farmer who owns the land went down to the see the damage and was dazed when he could find nothing at all. Not even a cigarette butt. Legend has it he’s now become something of a modern-day hippy, completely enamoured of the new generation and their music.

Modelled after the Burning Man Festival in America, AfrikaBurn is called a Leave No Trace event. You bring in all you need for survival in the desert – water, food, shelter. And what you bring in, you take out. And that means every little thing, without exception.

This is like Mad Max meets Archbishop Tutu meets Priscilla Queen of the Desert meets Donovan meets Tie Dye meets House of the Rising Sun meets Trance Music.

It’s not called trash. It’s called MOOP – Matter out of Place. MOOP is everything that wasn’t there to start off with – string, cans, cableties, nut shells, feathers, bottles, plastic forks, coffee grounds, orange peels, plastic bags, cigarette butts, false eyelashes, tent stakes, gazebos, sequins. People have even been known to leave their bicycles behind.

Every person at this highly eccentric gathering (this is also a Radical Self-Expression event) is urged to spend at least 2 hours cleaning up their own and other people’s MOOP.

A free unicycle performance. Photo: Chris Marais

It’s all in the unique spirit of AfrikaBurn. This is a completely non-commercial zone. You can buy and sell nothing there. You can’t even barter. If your vehicle has a logo on it, you have to cover it up. But you are encouraged to give. Extra water? Offer it to someone. Last time we were there, people came round offering fat juicy olives. Others gave away vegetable and herb seeds. Some people were spraying welcome water mist onto hot pedestrians and cyclists.

People gave performances for free. They created mandalas, say, or played music. One man gave a circus-standard show on a unicycle.

The act of giving transforms the giver, and as you wander through the crazily-dressed (or undressed) crowds handing out whatever you have, you feel interconnected. With every little good act, like picking up MOOP, you feel blessed.

This is like Mad Max meets Archbishop Tutu meets Priscilla Queen of the Desert meets Donovan meets Tie Dye meets House of the Rising Sun meets Trance Music. Everything except MOOP.

Look out for our reportback on the latest AfrikaBurn Festival in a few week’s time.

Category: Arts & Entertainment, Events, Responsible Tourism

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