If you want to see South Africans really enjoying the Karoo, then you should visit a blasted heath called Stonehenge, situated somewhere between the desert and the deep blue sea, in the Tankwa.
Once a year, in April when the winds die down, more than 6 000 people of all persuasions gather on these dusty plains and stage a Mardi Gras in the desert. Welcome to AfrikaBurn.
Central to the festival is Tankwa Town, a circular settlement with Bedouin tents and an array of sky-reaching structures.
By day, the AfrikaBurners don their finery and parade languidly around the Inner Circle. They bring their kids, their grandpas and their best friends and, for six days, they become their dream personas – the guy you don’t see around the water cooler at work. By night, they party till the sun comes up.
Out here in the Tankwa there is no judgment – only self-expression, generosity of spirit and non-commercialism. In other words, there are no pizza boats, trinket stands or tombolas at this gathering. Anything that changes hands comes in the form of a gift.
On the last night, the faithful gather at the feet of the great San Clan icon and burn it, raving on into the morning light.
AfrikaBurn is a festival of the individual and collective creative spirit, based on the North American event called Burning Man. Each season it grows with the arrival of a new tribe, some fresh thoughts and visual contraptions.
It’s not for voyeurs and festival boulevardiers. You are requested to become part of the funky furniture. And gently urged to party down.
- This is an extract from Karoo Keepsakes II – The Journeys Continue. The recently-published book is the perfect gift for someone with any link to the Karoo.