Culture, Leisure
AfrikaBurn | Tourist and Terrorist

Tourist and Terrorist

by Phumlani Pikoli / Images by Mads Nørgaard / 25.05.2012

I’ve been a fierce critic of this little pop up community for the longest time, based on two principles. One: The name. A spinoff of Burning Man, I still can’t understand why it would be named AfriKaburn. There’s way too much unpacking that needs to be done on that conjoined word. Two there’s a sanctimony it’s attendees carry with them that I can’t get down with. A complaint I heard from a purist not so long after getting back is that this year wasn’t the same. It somehow had been tainted by a new element that turned it into a festival, which it is not. Damn! I missed out on the good old days!

Anyway, I went, loved it, fell into an unexplainable spiral and now know this:

Nothing can ever really prepare you for it.

I really enjoy feeling welcome in a place, especially if the welcome comes from a place of personal sincerity. There’s nothing like an embrace from a connection made from a natured honesty. A full acceptance of the self. I enjoy an encouragement which is of personal fulfillment no matter what the avenue one chooses to drive, ride or walk down. What I mean is, basically I just like genuinely nice people.

A night spent in jail, a full day at work and then the trek out to the desert. Eight hours later we’re in the mud and have entered the sleeping community as the birds (had there been any) were about to stir. I’m tired, I’m muddy and I’m scared. A little bitch; I had to have a cut on my pinky finger washed off using Listerine as the antiseptic, fearing an infection from digging one of the cars out of a muddy ditch for two and a half hours. We’ll go back there later. We park the car and decide it’s time to go and talk to people, it’s only 4am, they should be up anyway. Stop, listen… follow the music!

Two Afrikaans dudes with a battery powered music generator (I didn’t see what they were playing off, all I know is that it was fucking loud), welcome us to their fire and hand us sachets of homemade honey. Kous and the other Afrikaans dude. It’s a bit gutting that I can’t remember his name. It’s motherfucker cold and we’re only opening the vodka now, so we need the fire. We chill, make small chit-chat and poke fun at the funny. Like an old Afrikaans guy saying: “Wassup my niggas!?” A few uncomfortable glances exchanged, we stammer our laughs and lose our first man to the car. They’re nice guys and we have at least two real jokes where we all find ourselves laughing. Finally their battery dies and we take that as our cue to start exploring. The sun is approaching and we’re in the desert. Kous is sad and airs that we were only there for the music. I suppose disgruntling the locals isn’t a very good start to a four day adventure in the desert. Wait… Did I say happy Freedom Day?

Assume I am Carlton Banks. By the time we’re into it, my sphincter is so tight I’m surprised that my sag is still intact and that I’m not wearing suspenders. First time going on an adventure this big without my squad. I barely know any of these people except for the one I’m sleeping with and even she’s a rather new addition to my life. They’re loud and I’m just not that kind of brother. Except they’re funny, and having fun, and I wanna be that kind of brother. It took Super Mum-Z two and a half hours to dig out the car, he allowed the Polo 1.4 to help pull the Mazda out the ditch and then I stepped into a pile of mud wearing my favourite skate shoes, that I don’t skate in. I finally give into the desert. At 7am I finally take off my shoes and socks and let the mud cover my feet and jeans. Miles Davis played in the background. My life at this point was cheddar cheese. A Hollywood movie scene.
“I’m in the desert for the next four days. Fuck it.”

A first time burn club member I’m still anxious as the city wakes up. I greet with a handshake and slowly enunciate every part of my name. The inevitable, “Punani?!” Still comes, fuck it. We’re a pair it seems to me. I’m the Tourist; wide eyed with my camera and loving the spectacle that is the desert, she’s the Terrorist; inventing the plots and schemes on how to fuck with peoples’ perceptions. We’re actually suited to this climate. We eventually touch base with the other non-others and I finally feel like I can kick off my shoes, grab a beer out the fridge and talk shit about the game. Still I notice their eyes telling me not to get too comfortable, anticipating a statement that’ll fuck with everyone’s mellow.

Unprepared as fuck, the free ticket was exactly that. I appreciate the opportunity to witness this rare glimpse of uncivilized society being extraordinarily civilized. Imagine Cape Town had an actual public art policy… Now don’t. It’s a desert without buildings, just flammable art.

I have to admit that I love hating on the whites as much as the next cell number, but sometimes they get the party right. For a while I’m happy that I’m there without my friends, I love them and all but we’re all into similar shit and sometime’s don’t know what we close ourselves off to. But the one thing about my group of friends I do miss is that critical point of engagement and not accepting everything at its surface value. While I agree with the spirit that the place is trying to invoke; that pure spirit of humanity: both acceptance and giving best exemplified in the gift economy, I still see the societal pressures of the outside entrenched in the fibre of a lot of these beings. At the end of the day this is a playground for the rich. Although the policy is of acceptance, the poor who attend the fest are still mostly labourers, only getting the chance to participate because of the gift economy. Welcome, but don’t feel at home. I am the Tourist, lucky to know the Terrorist joined at my hip. I don’t know if I would have loved it otherwise.

*All images © Mads Nørgaard.

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RESPONSES (24)
  1. ling-ling says:

    If there are poor (me) playing there too, then it is playground for the rich and poor, and the middle and the upper middle and lower middle. I think you feel as accepted and part there of as much as you accept and allow yourself part there of. I love that you came, more colour is needed (can I say that?) to own its name Afrikaburn (orginally Afrikaburns) It’s the burning of our hearts that brings the people, the fires on the streets, living life on the street, not behind closed doors and in from of screens, strangers who smile at you when you walk into their space and hand you a chance of sharing that moment. It is in fact all we have. NOW. Good article, cool perspective. See you next year with your friends.

    When I went my first time it was like a little village, this time it was like a little town, I hope every year it changes and never ever stays the same.

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  2. ling-ling says:

    beautiful photos Mads Nørgaard.

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  3. poppycock says:

    It started off being called Burning Man – the first Burning Man outside of the US. But then we South Africans literally started burning people – so called xenophobic violence – so they changed the name.

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  4. S'phum'eSuburbs says:

    I went there once.
    Singlehandedly upped the ratio to about to about 1000:1.
    Never bothered to go back. Glad Phumlani went and kept the ratio there.

    Poor middle class is still middle class.

    And as for Affrikaburn, you seen the pics.

    tl;dr : Imagine Cape Town had an actual public art policy,
    At the end of the day this is a playground for the rich.

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  5. ling-ling says:

    Well the ration was not 1000:1 this year and you cant complain if it is, if you dont frikken go. # justsaying

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  6. Brunswicked says:

    @poppycock:

    Poppycock. AfrikaBurn has never been called Burning Man – it was first AfrikaBurns.

    See here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AfrikaBurn

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  7. Detard says:

    Fuck off, haters! The desert doesn’t give a flying rat’s ass for classifications or ratios or tokens, the desert will burn your ass whatever your colour, there’s no room for judgement – unless you’re stealing shoes or taking a dump and wiping your ass with someone else’s towel, AfrikaBurn welcomes you without discrimination. Got the money? Buy the ticket, take the road but fucking watch out muppets – the road will break you if you think you can drive like a rally champ! Pasop pussies!

    AfrikaBurn ain’t for unprepared sissy motherfuckers, so if you can’t fuckin rock ‘n roll, don’t fuckin come!

    EVERYBODY LOVE EVERYBODY!

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  8. cnut says:

    As much as I love hating upon ‘poor-black-like-me’ pathetic written angles from my fellow darker brethren… just could not be arsed today Punani…

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  9. Detard says:

    Cuntyballs, you’re one lost motherfucking cause.

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  10. HeARTburn says:

    What a lame article. Really doesn’t say much about the art festival (which it is a festival by the way. it never claimed not to be a festival.) The racial dig is so old. You don’t see white people complaining about hip hop events having min whites, it’s a cultural thing, not many black peeps want to go play in the desert and make art. Cape Town within itself is still lank segregated. Rocking the daisies is mostly white, the markets people go to on weekends are mostly white, jazz fests are more mixed because that’s something that pulls a black and coulourd crowd. Afrikaburn is really not about race and no non white that goes feels ostrizised. I’ve been to all 6 or 7 however many there have been and not once have I heard about a black person being ostrizised. However the last two or three years there is always a black writer complaining how it’s a rich white kids playground. I think that’s a fuckin rude statement as many people choose to spend their money on afrikaburn vs a R1200 pair of sneakers and will rather go to afrikaburn than have a tv in their house, a good writer would have done some real research into the people that do attend and what it means to them and how they spend their money. I know I chose to spend my money and time for afrikaburn over going to hiphop events, jazz fests, new clothes, rock concerts, trance parties etc.
    I also never feel guilty about going to play in the desert once a year as that’s one event that gives me the inspiration to do what I do for the rest of the year . Interesting perspectives you have. For one you started your festival with a bottle of Vodka maybe if you had started it with some yoga you would have had another perspective. Oh hold on yoga is for whites only aparently. Ps those Afrikaans guys being called locals ? You are also a local, everyone there is just as local as the next, its just as much your festival as it is anyone else’s . I wonder if you read the 10 principals of Afrikaburn? Maybe that would help you understand what it’s actually about. And you digging up mud is not going to infect your cut. It’s clean desert earth, it’s all natural.

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  11. Anonymous says:

    Just a kuk article.

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  12. On the fence says:

    But what if I prefer vodka over yoga ?
    Does that make me less deserving to be there ?
    So yoga and sacrifice gives you 10 more Burn points ?

    Just because you didn’t feel the same way doesn’t mean the writers points aren’t valid and real to them .

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  13. Phumlani says:

    Heartburn my heart bleeds for you.

    If you can’t read the fact that I loved my time out there there’s nothing I can do for you. It’s written in plain internet text. Gosh darn it!

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  14. Phumlani says:

    Oh yeah and just for good measure: You’re a RACIST!

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  15. tom says:

    As someone who was born in the early nineties and only knew what aparthied was when one of my coloured friends explained to me why his dad couln’t go to the beach when he was younger when i was in grade 6, I don’t really give a fuck what colour anyone is. Whenever I see race brought into an article that isn’t about race it really fucking irks me. I’m not saying racism isn’t a issue with a past as black as sin, but for fuck sakes, is it really that relevant in this circumstance? Again, as a memeber of the “new generation”, I don’t give a fuck what colour you are. Everybody is different, I’m not black and I’ve never had money, without a bursary I wouldn’t be able to study. It might’ve been easier for me to get said bursary if I was part of the “negroid” “race”. But in the end all of that bullshit is completely inconsequential to me. Phumlani, you weren’t around for aparthied and have skate shoes and a laptop (I’m assuming). Tell this umlungu what racism means to you?

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  16. Phumlani says:

    Ignorance.

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  17. tom says:

    True, carry on if you please.

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  18. TheFridaFucktor says:

    While Heartbreak’s comment was stupid he/she can be forgiven for thinking this was a racist article. You only touched on “loving it” in the second paragraph and in www terms my friend, the second paragraph is only read by Roald Dahl and other animals.

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  19. Phumlani says:

    Those who choose to relax the brain, do so at their own will. You can drag the horse kicking and screaming but I suppose that doesn’t mean that it realises that it is thirsty.

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  20. Anonymous says:

    What a sad little racist diatribe. The author has some deep seated racial hatred going on and needs to chill out.

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  21. Ofik says:

    Anonymous, write a little note, fold it up, and stick it up your ass. You know, where your head is at.

    The author gave us a balanced and nuanced and entirely subjective view of his experience. The fuck you get your poncy posturing I do not know. Wake up, wise up and shut up.

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  22. QueenNubian says:

    The point of an event such as Afrika Burns is that the experience is subjective.People enjoy or not enjoy it for a number of unique and relative reasons.I appreciate the opinion of the author because it wasnt an advertorial for the event but just a personal text of his/her experience!

    The photographers viewpoint and the quality of photography really added a ´n extra special peek to how that exerience can be.Mads Norgard is a really great photographer and Phumlani Pikoli is an honest and talented writer.Appreciate that first and then get over yourself for thinking the article was to convince you of anything.As you were….

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  23. not_a_skater says:

    Gotto say I agree wholeheartedly with Phumlani.

    AfrikaBurn is a pretentious party for the white pyromaniac wealthy very thinly disguised as a non-profit without up to date (and very loose) financials “sponsoring” art and artists to the exclusion of the masses pretending to be based on “love and mutual respect with freedom of self expression but only if you express yourself the way we allow you to and deem proper.” Oh yes, and the organizers take a “modest” payment for their “non-profit” work and thank you very much to all the volunteers who gave their time for free so we could build our kitty to cover our “travel expenses”.

    So over it. Bunch of new age white hippy fakes.

    With love.

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  24. Monz says:

    Ahem financials from 2007 – 2012 http://www.afrikaburn.com/about/afrikaburn-financials

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