AfrikaBurn 2023: 24 to 30 April

2020 Theme – Afroboratory

“Ex Afrika semper aliquid novi” (“out of Africa, always something new”) – Pliny The Elder

You’re in the desert, out in the darkness under a star-swept sky. The sounds of tinkering and cursing catch the wind; you hear the hiss of gas escaping, and the fizzle of a spent squab. The dust is swirling and there’s an angry red glow on the horizon. You’re nearing your destination; a large steaming vehicle grumbles to a stop. The smell of smoke lingers in the air…

To the sounds of clanging bells, a small fierce woman approaches – she gestures, pushing you onward. Sparks fly and a door opens as smoke pours out into the night. There’s some
secret science afoot here. You hurry inside, into the warm, strong smell of burning oils. You can see a wild-eyed hairy man mixing powders in the back as he mutters quietly to himself. You’re here, and there’s a lot to do.

“The true method of knowledge is experiment.” – William Blake



“Welcome to Tankwa Town,

A place to collaborate, cooperate, and contribute to our collectively created experience, an opportunity to invent our world anew, to generate a culture and connective environment, to be idealistic and celebratory. To have fun. The Town may be temporary, but we hope the experience stays with you. This is an invent rather than an event.”

– from the AfrikaBurn 2007 event guide

Once a year a city rises from the African dust – only it’s not a city, it’s an experiment, a cultural laboratory and an incubator of ideas. This laboratory isn’t reserved for academics alone – since 2007, the blank canvas that is Tankwa Town has offered a space to anyone that wishes to experiment, tinker, play or explore.

This year’s theme invites you to embrace the notion that what we co-create in the desert is an experiment. What do you want to achieve – and how are you going to achieve it? Do you want to find better ways of being, and doing? Are you interested in exploring new frontiers in electronics, sound or light? Are you an amateur pioneer in pyrotechnics, art or kinetic sculpture? Got a hankering to tinker with gastronomical chemistry, strange & unusual physics or esoteric psychology? This is the place to do it. Your ideas, your innovations and experimentation are a rich tapestry. Practice imagining, engage and await the w̡̪̦̪e҉̯̗̮̲̺i̥̟r̦̣̙̩d̘̲͙̬̭̙̫͢ f̸͖̝e͓̼̰͈ẹ̬̳̖̲̩̱͢d̶͉̺̜̣͕͍̼b͙͎̞̮̗͖̲ḁ̬̦̱̜c̻̞̪ķ͓͉̦ because results always vary*.

“Everyone’s a mad scientist – and life is their lab.” – David Cronenberg

Experimental desert laboratory (photo: Jonx Pillemer)

The aims of the experiment are up to you: cast off the norm and engage in a spirit of exploration. Pursue the new, the strange and the unknown. Only if we’re brave enough to get out of our comfort zones and cast off the known, will we be able to discover what lies beyond.

We create Tankwa Town to bring the spirit of discovery and experimentation alive. There’s no better place to dabble, tinker and explore. Ideas lying around have value – what do you have stewing in your petri dish?

“Imagine first, reason later” – Nabeel Hamdi


As the sun breaks the horizon in the crisp dawn, dew drops falling off the silks next to the firepit, you slide the large show globe under your tarpaulin. There’s a glow to the lights in the early morning dust. You check your load one more time, seal up the furnace and take out your pathfinder. You’re leaving and there’s nothing to show for it. Or is there? Your vehicle joins the caravan as you pass a fading sign:

‘Welcome to the Afroboratory’

*Caution when using positive feedback. Eternal experiment sold separately. It is recommended that this event and all afterthoughts be periodically examined for potential hazards. Ejaculations and exclamations apply. Results may vary. Read manual carefully before starting to operate.

How was the theme arrived at?

New concepts and developments of pre-selected themes were submitted by members of our community following the call-out for theme submissions in May. Thereafter, members of our Theme Team sat with the content and mulled it over, until a clear direction emerged.

Here’s how the process works:

  • A call for theme proposals is announced through our various channels.
  • All proposals are collated and have the proposers names taken off the document so as to make it anonymous.
  • The Theme Team convenes and discusses what we think AfrikaBurn “needs” as a rallying point in the next round.
  • We come to agreement on the look & feel.
  • After that, we go through the proposed themes and choose an appropriate short list.
  • At the same time we ask for input from Members and the Operations team, this is optional for these teams, but we often get nice input.
  • We mull on it and reconvene and discuss more.
  • Write up and fine tune the theme development.
  • Announce the theme.
  • Go to the Tankwa and make fabulous things.

Who was The Theme Team for 2020’s theme?

Monique Schiess, Samantha Bendzulla, The Tim Doyle, Dale Calder, Shannon Smith, Travis Lyle and Chris Denovan.

Wanna see our main annual event’s past themes? See this page.

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