AfrikaBurn 2024: 29 April to 5 May

What would Mr Radical Self-Reliance do?

(words: Monique Schiess)

Those pesky principles; there’s always a bit of a dust-wrestling match going on with them. You might be familiar with it: my radical self-expression vs your civic responsibility, my immediacy vs your Leave No Trace. These stand offs are especially useful if you are being self-serving. But they’re meant to rub up against each other, keep the sparks flying. It’s like when the desert rubs up against you.
But today we’re talking about Ms Radical Self-Reliance. Take the time to think about it, she’s the foundational guy. We really couldn’t practice any of those others without this bad girl propping the whole scene up. She’s the humdinger that makes all of the other stuff that we do out there in the desert possible. Ms Scaffolding Principle, if you will.
The reason I’m banging on about this because we are talking about what have come to be known in the burnerverse, interchangeably, as “plug and play camps”, “Concierge camps” or “Turnkey camping”. They’re those camps where someone comes and sets up your kit for you: rigging your tents, bringing your food, bedding, outfits, bikes etc….for a fee.
There are of course degrees of Plug and Play, but regardless of where the level of service sits on the continuum we do need to deal with it. Pronto. Because it’s starting become a thing at AfrikaBurn.
In a way this is lucky for me because I unashamedly love speaking about why it is that we do this thing that we do. And when faced with this kind of issue, there is only one thing to do: return to the source for the answers…and to chat…we need to discuss this and work out a solution where everyone has a voice.
Here’s my point of view:
I have said it elsewhere, but AfrikaBurn is a tool. It’s also about relationship: Relationship with yourself, with others, with the environment with our wilder natures with your creative self, with unexplored sides of yourself.
That harsh but beautiful desert and that self-relying provides the charge / the environment / the catalyst that wakes up people’s creativity. Building an artwork, creating a theme camp? They are mechanisms for creating social cohesion, practicing imagining, practicing working together, collaborating, waking up activism. Active citizenry. In many ways burns are a counterpoint a passively consumptive (default world) society, where most shit is pre – packaged and all you have to do is passively consume it. Effectively killing relationship. So that desert shindig you love so much, its exercising a muscle that can become weakened in the default world. That’s why when you get back from the desert, exhausted shattered, weather beaten, broke, you feel alive and your synapses are firing about “next year”. Weird but true.
Creativity comes from a diversity of activities and skills coming together into one brain/human/collective.  You need relationship for that. There is a jolt of pleasure you get when you’ve worked hard and suffered a bit and then it all comes together makes you feel exhausted, alive and engaged.
So simply: Having your shit organised for you at AfrikaBurn, robs you of at least a good chunk the experiential learning that is happening out there.
No matter how you cut it, a luxury experience being paid for at a burn is a commodity, it’s a service being sold. Someone doing your shit for you at a cost takes us right back to the impersonal transaction of the default world.  Its consumptive and un-engaged When we transact like this, we lose relationship.  Poor “Immediacy” gets a punch in the nose. Oh ja, and so does “Decommodification”.
These events are not meant to be vacations. They’re not meant to be easy. They’re moments in time that wake all sorts of shit up in us. If we revert to default service/exchange sensibility to slip into the mix (the thin end of a very big wedge) the principles that guide this thing run the risk of becoming glib slogans empty of substance and we lose the movement.
Its an exceptionally slippery slope, because of that continuum that I mentioned earlier.
Pretty much nothing about AfrikaBurn (or burns) is sensible.  Going to the desert to build a wooden structure and burn it, is essentially not sensible.  Its about senses.
From the Burning Man mission statement: “The touchstone of value in our culture will always be immediacy: experience before theory, moral relationships before politics, survival before services, roles before jobs, embodied ritual before symbolism, work before vested interest, participant support before sponsorship”.
So we have to talk about it.
Our general approach in the past has been is that people can go and fetch a good (like an overland truck with a fully kitted kitchen, an RV, etc) but services may not solicit burners. If it starts with a service, the good being sold, not the relationship, you can just say aye or nay to it.  Impersonal.
If it all starts with relationship, its makes sense…..groups of friends, theme camps hiring stuff to make their sojourn more efficient/easier is fine.  But it should remain in the realm of relationship, unmediated by impersonal money transactions, or advertising.
Do you think that outsourced tent erections are OK?
Do you think its ok that people outsourcing their tent erections get the best locations because of the early arrivals?
Its complicated and there is loads of grey area.
Lets get stuck in and work out a solution that works. Send your thoughts to [email protected]
So ask yourself: WWRSL do?

Interested in providing your input on this issue? We’d like your input, so we’re having a public discussion, at our offices. Got an opinion on plug & play camps, and 1%ers? Got practical solutions? We’d love to hear them – please join us for this important discussion on October 14th.
Venue: AfrikaBurn HQ, Bijou Building, 178 Lower Main Rd, Observatory, Cape Town (entrance via Cole St)
Time: 7pm

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