The Northern Cape’s Treasure
There are few things that beat the beauty of a crisp and clear sunrise, unpolluted with natural colours equivalent to that of these days’ Instagram filters. The Northern Cape possesses a kind of beauty that you need to open yourself up to see, and that is exactly what I did from the minute I embarked on the life changing experience of attending the 2019 Afrikaburn event.
Imagine 13 000 people from across the globe, gathered together in a dry desert in the Northern Cape. Harsh weather extremes and none of the basic fundamentals that most of us are used to at home. Some do not even entertain the thought of attending an event of this kind as it demands a lot from you mentally, physically and emotionally. It had taken me some time to get myself mentally ready to embark on this journey and boy, am I happy I went!
Afrikaburn is a regional Burning Man event held at the Tankwa Karoo National Park. It has been taking place since 2007 and is premised on the construction of temporary artworks in a semi-desert environment, some of which are burnt towards the end of the event. Afrikaburn seeks to allow people the freedom to express themselves in whichever manner they so wish, and that is exactly what they do. From unicorn outfits, to onesies every day, to a complete expression of nudity, Afrikaburn is where you find it all.
The theme of the event is simple, for five days, all you need to exercise is kindness, love, reciprocity and a sharing nature. You go with absolutely everything you will need to survive for the days that you spend there, from medical requirements, food, water, shelter and clothing. Every morning you wake up to the sounds of music playing in the distance, your camping neighbours starting a fire to make their morning dose of coffee or fellow burners taking a stroll through the creative town.
The sharing theme is huge, with certain camps set up with the sole purpose of providing goods for the masses. If you wake up early enough you could be treated to pancakes, bagels, breakfast buns and cappuccinos. You might be asking, how much all of these foodie treats would cost in a remote place like a desert? Here’s the best part about Afrikaburn, everything is free and one of the major rules in the pop-up town is that no money is allowed as de-commodification is the order of the day, every day.
Ending the days with the beautiful desert sunsets was by far the highlight of my day, every day. Meeting all sorts of different people from all walks of life was an equally humbling experience. As there is no signal or network for cell phone or digital communication, you are forced to rely solely on yourself and the people around you to keep you entertained and in good spirits, another therapeutic experience that I believe everyone should try at least once in their lifetime.
It is safe to say that the Northern Cape is an exquisite gem that still needs to be adventured and explored by many more people from this province as well as the world. Afrikaburn is the perfect opportunity to do just that. With a strict emphasis on no advertising, branding materials or influencing, Afrikaburn is your go to for letting go of your fears and letting yourself live. At the end of the day, do you really want to question whether you actually lived your life?
On the last two evenings, the “burns” take place which is the actual burning down of the wooden art structures that people have created during their time in the desert. ‘The Temple’ is the major burn, and people can visit the temple throughout the week and write messages to their departed loved ones. This ends up being a rather emotional experience for many when the structure eventually gets engulfed in flames and people’s messages burnt with the memories that they have with the people they have lost. The next day everyone leaves, and makes a substantial effort to take everything that they came with, back home with them, including their garbage. We pack up our bags, our litter and our memories and head back to reality without leaving a single trace that we were ever there.
Am I going back next year? That is a definite!