Creativity and renewal at AfrikaBurn
The annual AfrikaBurn festival is taking place at Stonehenge Farm near Tankwa Karoo National Park in the Tankwa Karoo. It ends on 4 May. AfrikaBurn is the regional event of Burning Man in the United States.
Participants at AfrikaBurn create a 'create a temporary city of art, theme camps, costume, music and performance'. On the Saturday of the event each year, the artworks created over the course of the festival are burnt. This is known as the 'clan burn'.
The theme this year is 'The Trickster'. Say the organisers of the event: 'The burn was born out of impulse; to create freely, to experiment, to express, to dare, to do, to celebrate. Be a culture hero. Be brave, play the fool – be the Trickster and participate in inventing our world anew.'
Kim Ludbrooke, a photographer for EPA, is an AfrikaBurn devotee, and has attended five of the past seven events. He describes the event as a 'refreshing, beautiful antidote to the modern society that we live in'. He sees AfrikaBurn as a form of 'radical self-expression'.
'When you go to the burn,' he says, 'you see human nature at its greatest.' He also says that as a photographer, he finds the festival a great place to 'inspire yourself and fuel your creative juices'.
When asked about the clan burn and what it is about, Ludbrooke describes it as a communal burning. It is not religious, he says, but the best way to describe it is as a 'pagan ritual of letting go of the past and [entering into a place of] renewal'. He explains that 'a massive effigy is burnt at 10pm' in a communal burning ceremony, and the artworks are burnt then too.
He also explains that while the creating of art and the ceremonial burning of it is 'a reflective process', AfrikaBurn is still a lot of fun.
In this gifting community, no money is exchanged: each 'burner' must gift other burners with something. This can range from sharing skills by assisting another burner, to teaching another burner how to do something. It is a non-commercial community and the money that is received from ticket sales is spent on running the event and the NPO that organises it. The Africa Burns Creative Projects organisation has made its financials available on its website.
The self-reliance required of burners is one of Ludbrooke's favourite aspects of the festival: 'I love that you have to survive in the desert, and by doing so it makes us grateful for what we have in the "default world [what burners refer to as the world outside of the week at AfrikaBurn]".' Self-reliance is one of the guiding principles of AfrikaBurn.
There are various themed tents that burners can attend free of charge. These tents, along with any indication that a large festival has taken place, are cleared away after AfrikaBurn because one of the festival's guiding principles is to 'leave no trace'. The organisers write that '[t]he Tankwa Karoo is a sacred space that deserves to be respected', and part of respecting that space is leaving it as it was before the festival.
Many burners describe AfrikaBurn as life-changing and a great creative space. The sense of renewal, self-reliance and renewed creativity are common themes expressed by burners. Why not attend AfrikaBurn 2015 and experience it for yourself. Tickets go on sale as early as six months before the event, and sell out rather quickly.
We can't wait to see your photos in the Love South Africa Flickr group.