(words: Duncan Larkin, photos: Jonx Pillemer)
Every year, near the end of Cape Town’s summer, AfrikaBurn seems to hijack nearly every conversation. My friends that have never been (especially the ones who never plan on going) always point it out first – I never noticed before ‘cos I’m always too busy talking about, and planning for, AfrikaBurn. Everyone is talking about what happened last year, what worked, what didn’t and who’s doing what this year.
It’s easy to overlook this build-up period in anticipation for the actual event. After all, the event is what it’s all about, isn’t it? Seven days of sun, smiles and total jol, out there with no hassles. But I’d argue that this planning period is just as vital, equally exciting as That Thing In The Desert. The more you get involved, the more you plan beforehand, the more rewarding your experience out in the desert will be as a result. But not only will the event be that much more rewarding and meaningful, but the time spent planning almost makes it all worthwhile. It’s this time of year that you can see the magic happening.
If you listen closely and look around, in garages, gardens, workshops all around the country, you’ll hear a new sound. The sound of people sawing, hammering, drilling, planning, plotting and scheming. The beauty of it is that no-one is doing what they’re doing for AfrikaBurn because they get paid to do it – people are only doing what they want to do. Because this isn’t their full time job, people are working on things they might not know how to make yet, using tools they don’t understand. Learning new things, challenging themselves.
If you’re not already working on something yourself in your spare time, go take a look at what someone else is doing. You’ll see people who aren’t carpenters, set builders, engineers or welders, learning how to use a jigsaw, how to drill pilot holes before you put screws in so the wood doesn’t split, how to use an arc welder, how to measure things twice before you cut once. You’ll see people learning how to make the things that they want to make, and what happens when they see what they can do when they set their mind to it. It’s fucking fantastic. And when they’ve built it, driven it nearly 500 km out into the middle of nowhere, spent a week having a jol and driven back, those skills stay with them.
I’ve seen people give themselves to making a project happen with some friends, only to discover their own potential as a leader show itself. I’ve seen people rediscover skills they might have forgotten and learn new skills and passions that can change their lives.
It’s not just the people building creative projects that are making sparks. Look around, check your Facebook feed. Nearly every weekend, every year, leading up to the event there seems to be some or other kind of fundraiser for some theme camp or something. Groups of people are coming together to collectively achieve things they’d never usually set out to do, like build a thirty foot high human pyramid or host hardcore pornography and hamburger evenings out in the desert, and they’re crowdsourcing their capital.
If people spending their weekends, their evenings, their lunch breaks organising fundraisers, parties, projects and builds isn’t magic, then cover me in glitter and feed me to the hippies, ‘cos it sure looks like it to me!