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Written byJosh Raynham

“I carry my heart with me wherever I go. A piece of it, however, lies still in the Tankwa.”

Into the desert, where the dust clouds spiral high above your head. Reaching for the heavens, the fires burn bright. Afrikaburn is built from nothing and returns to nothing, the land emerges unscathed yet changed in the minds of the thousands who were once there. A place which is only truly fathomable in your dreams, and where one does not capture the moment through a lens but experiences it in all its entirety purely by being present.

I have not experienced anything quite like Afrikaburn in all the years I have been on this earth. It makes sense that for one to experience it fully they must leave this plain of existence and venture out into the cosmos. A spaceman in search of the stars. It is a space built around one another through love, intimacy, and the great vastness that is the Tankwa desert. All to go up in flames and burn to ashes that which once was whole. The desert then returned to its natural state.

“To the East, a blood moon is rising, and the clan is burning. A thousand sparks light up the night sky, fireflies trapped in a glass jar, and she thinks, I am where I am, and you are where you are and the space between us is not so very far.” – Unknown

Afrikaburn is a place of radical self-expression, self-reliance, and inclusion. You yourself are a unique individual and the gifts you share as a self, allow for such radicalism. No one other than the individual can determine its content. It is offered as a gift to others and in this spirit, the giver surrounds themselves with the world. This is a space which encourages the individual to discover, exercise and rely on their inner resources. Here the individual is the self, and this embodiment brings forth the ideals which allow for interaction and communication with the space in its entirety. Here everyone should be able to be a part of Afrikaburn. As a community committed to re-inventing the world anew, Afrikaburn brings with it the inclusion of a world outside. Where freedom to express oneself is met with the respect of others to allow for that space. Here there is balance and respect for the stranger. Where anyone can belong. The people bring this space to life and with it, this energy of positivity, joy, and wonder.

There showed a willingness to connect and to allow one the space to explore this connection. The people that built each camp did so in a way which would carry on their own impressions of Afrikaburn, the connections made, and the joy shared. There was something special about how each camp held its own uniqueness. Built by separate minds to create one singular idea, to be shared by thousands more.

As one walks around the Tankwa desert it soon becomes apparent the sheer size of the space. A vast landscape dotted with the minds of those who chose to fill it with them. Every art piece had its own significance, not only transporting you into the mind of the artist but into your own mind as well.

Whilst the burns began only on Thursday, it was not until Saturday that the structures most sacred were burnt. One of my favourite burns came just as the sun was setting over the horizon and they lit the fire underneath “Live the Love You Feel”. This structure represented the deep inner knowing to understand our fullest capacity to love. It takes an adventure to embark on the quest to understand this love. This giant heart on the horizon was a reminder of the courage and a celebration of arrival to stand tall in the truth of love. As the structure burnt the wind picked up the dust and embers and lifted them up, spiralling, creating dust tornados which rose high above our heads, only to dissipate a few moments later into the evening sky.

Later in the evening the gathering to burn “Clan: The World is Our Clan” created a sea of faces around me. Fire was thrown as people sat, mesmerized. Silence surrounded us all, as the structure burnt. In memory yet also in celebration of life. And as the structure burnt down, and the naked bodies emerged from the crowd, shouts and howls were heard all around. Running naked one is completely free, surrounded by nakedness there is no shame, no judgment. Everyone gathered around the fire and chanted and danced into the night.

To never think of the outside world shows just how powerful Afrikaburn is. It brings you in and holds you, as all the people hold you. The love felt is a love where self-expression isn’t frowned upon and where strangers welcome you into their space with open arms. Each camp is unique, special in its own way and in a way that draws you in through curiosity and wonder. Greeted with a smile, a warm cup of tea, or any other gift which comes your way. A conversation can last two minutes, or two hours, both equally as meaningful.

“Wabi Sabi” – The acceptance of transience. To find beauty within the imperfections and impermanence of life, accepting the natural cycle of growth and decay

It seems, however, that as times change and the world grows, we evolve the spaces around us. Shifting the views of our reality to either fit in or step out. Whilst Afrikaburn sets its boundaries in order to create harmony, the landscape which seems to be emerging shows a shift in direction. Speaking to a few burners who had been there since the beginning it arose that as the modern emerges the old ways are slowly falling away. Yes, the ideals of burn are upheld, strongly. This is made clear from the beginning. Inclusivity, leaving no trace, community, and self-reliance all fall into the set of “Not Rules”, ideals that offer guidelines for how the community can reinvent the world, and ourselves. Change is a constant and as experiences are added we must allow ourselves the space for that change.

Obviously upholding the ideals of burn are what makes it so special but to deny an experience which lends itself to change is to deny human free will. Change for me is hard but I know that for what I experienced burn was nothing short of life-changing. I know that to direct it too much may lead to a breakdown in ethos but for what it’s worth I feel Afrikaburn will always be an open space dedicated to self-expression and freedom.

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“To wonder around in the desert has been a privilege. A connection to nature and the people within it.”