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Losing that burn feeling


With more public holidays on the horizon, Kimberley is likely to see its fair share of visitors in the immediate future

Pictures: Danie van der Lith

With more public holidays on the horizon, Kimberley is likely to see its fair share of visitors in the immediate future.

While looking among the GP plates and jam-packed SUVs, complete with a bike on the rack for every stick figure on the rear window, don’t be surprised to find an influx of barefoot hippies, travelling in packs and transporting everything but the kitchen sink.

In fact, don’t be surprised if their cargo includes the kitchen sink.

Many of these transients may appear in desperate need of a shower, hot meal and change of clothes.

Some from our conservative little dorpie are likely to instinctively find these visitors deplorable while others may be tempted to give them a little something to help them through evidently tough times.

However, both these approaches are to be discouraged as these vagrants are neither putrid nor poor. So, please, fight those urges.

These creatures that have crawled out of the woodwork are “burners” and will be in the Province throughout next week to get rid of some stress along with some clothing and inhibitions.

More importantly for the people of the Province, these bohemians are going to be liberating themselves of some cold, hard cash in our own backyard.

But what is a burner?

Well, disregard their appearance and resist all temptation to pity or praise them as the ideals that they stand for, noble as they may present themselves to be, are fleeting and are generally only practised for a few days a year.

For 51 weeks a year, burners spend a fortune to attend a party where, ironically enough, one of the main attractions is the absence of money.

That party is Afrikaburn and the latest instalment of this exhibition of self-expression will be hitting the Tankwa in the Northern Cape from Monday.

Based on the annual Burning Man Festival in Nevada, US, this event draws visitors from near and far to the middle of nowhere where, for most of the year, you will find nobody and nothing, something our beloved Province has in abundance.

With the exception of this annual invasion, precious little happens in this isolated corner of the Karoo and if things go according to plan, all signs of human activity are supposed to vanish before the ringing in your ears from electronic music is given a chance to subside.

The idea behind the burn is that it provides participants with an opportunity to let loose and express themselves through art, music and dance. It is a chance to live in the moment, be surrounded by beauty and love and grab life by the horns.

Another huge part of the philosophy is the concept of a gift economy where the theory is that if you freely share what you have in abundance, you won’t need anything.

All this is fine and well, in theory, but if you want to truly experience this alternative existence, your time may well be running out.

Every burn I vow to be at the next one, but every year something comes up and I’m left following the excitement from a distance.

Even as an outsider, it is becoming clearer with every passing year that this event that was once a window for weirdos to display their weirdness is becoming a trendy treat for the cool kids to prove that they are as much an individual as each and everyone of their non-conformist mates.

With every burn it seems that what is meant to be a celebration of humanity is becoming a hedonistic pantomime where sharing is no longer caring and the gift makes way for the thrift.