About This Festival
Same But Very Different
Afrikaburn was founded in 2007 on a private farm called Stonehenge next to the Tankwa Karoo National Park far away from civilization (about 250 miles outside Cape Town) in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa. Like at Burning Man, you better be pretty intentional in your desire to make this trek. Given that the event is during the Southern Hemisphere’s early fall, there are so many similarities to Burning Man, you may feel like you’re hallucinating. In fact, the event is held over South Africa’s version of Labor Day, May Day. And, given the nature of the event, that may be true depending upon your predilections.
The main sculpture at this art event is called the San Clan and it’s designed to look like a San rock art glyph of a group of people to convey the sense of unity at the event. Whether you’re in a theme camp or not, you definitely will feel a sense of community at AfrikaBurn, especially given its more intimate size. Everyone practices "moop," (matter out of place, as part of the “Leave No Trace” principle of the event). AfrikaBurn has learned to live with ever increasing numbers of attendees in a sustainable way.
Art is everywhere as are mutant vehicles, but beyond the fact that it’s in a completely different part of the world, what makes AfrikaBurn more than just a Burning Man clone? First, while sand-infested winds are par for the course in both locations, the desert is a little more rocky at AfrikaBurn. In fact, the moderately treacherous drive is best-suited for four-wheel drive vehicles. Give yourself sufficient time as this feels like an even less civilized part of the world as compared to the Black Rock Desert.
Some people think AfrikaBurn has more of a festival vibe to it; a larger percentage of the population is dancing and partying and fewer are hanging out in healing camps or attending workshops as they do at Burning Man. That may have something to do with the demographics. Burning Man has lots of people in their middle age and older who've been to this rodeo many times before and they’re not quite as enamored with partying all night every night. While AfrikaBurn isn’t just one big party, the younger average age does create a more active party environment and, as one friend told me, even more hot bodies—male and female—to appreciate in the desert. In fact, maybe it’s because this is Africa, but the costumes seem more colorfully indigenous at AfrikaBurn.
Given that this festival is much smaller, it’s not essential that you have a bike as you can wander for a few hours and pretty much see it all (it would take a few days in the Nevada desert). The music scene is different here as well: no dubstep, drum and bass, or electro/dutch house; more psytrance and house.
Everywhere you look, you'll see dancing, grooving, screaming, shouting, cartwheeling, and cavorting naked – freely and without hindrance. Yes, the creative, radical self-expression that defines Burning Man is in full regalia in Africa. Even the way the temporary city is laid out with a center playa and camps providing a semi-circle around it will remind you of Burning Man.
AfrikaBurn is like Burning Man 15 years ago. Everyone is a participant. Idealism abounds (no one is moaning, “This isn’t as good as it was four years ago.”) The otherworldly landscape and the ephemeral art make for a soul-searching experience. There’s a belief in the human spirit that’s alive and well at AfrikaBurn.