Everything you need to know, wear and bring with you for the time of your life
Words: Max Dylan Lazarus and Rosie Goddard | Images: Rex Features by Dale Scogings
Tankwa Town Fashion Week is upon us, and while we eagerly anticipate the landslide of profile pictures coming our way next week, in the meantime, there’s a serious party to plan. Those attending this year's event are sure to see some wonderful characters at AfrikaBurn and would definitely benefit from an AfrikaBurn survival guide and so here's our A-Z of everything that you could possibly need to know.
A is for accessories. The more you get into dressing up, the more fun you’ll have. Jewellery, head gear (of a non-appropriative nature), scarves, shoes, belts, bangles, socks, umbrellas and more will have you feeling your most festive.
B is for boots. Cutting a foot on the harsh, rocky ground when you’re a 30-minute walk from the medic tent is a fresh kind of hell, so make sure you treat your feet to a sturdy pair of boots or shoes that’ll cut it on this unforgiving terrain.
C is for cultural appropriation. Bindis, headdresses, turbans, tribal costumes, face paint, Aztec prints, braids (particularly cornrows), Dashikis, calling things your spirit animal – just don’t do it. Especially if you’re not aware of the origins of a print, or why an item of clothing is culturally or spiritually significant. Get creative and wear something that isn’t offensive to another culture. Once you’ve walked past the 80th person wearing a Native American headdress, you’ll start to feel pretty unoriginal anyway. If in doubt, Google is your friend.
D is for daytime. After 12am, when the binnekring camps turn in for the night, a special kind of AfrikaBurn creature comes out and can be found loping after The Spirit Train (leaving a trail of cigarette butts and moop in his wake). Stay in the light! The day and early evening are where it’s at – fun costumes, bouncy music, infinite art works and camps to explore, the soft glow of fairy lights, and no hard unimaginative techno.
E is for emptiness. This describes both the feeling in your heart, as well as the perfect backdrop for your next profile pic.
F is for fur coat. Let’s get real, you’re no one in the desert without a fur coat. But keep it faux: no animals need to be harmed in the name of fun.
G is for gifts. You’re going to get a lot of free stuff, but don’t be a taker. Sure, it’s easy to go from one camp to the next, accepting the free drinks, eating the free pizza, drinking the free coffee, enjoying the free snacks and hanging on to the (free) dress-up gear of unsuspecting strangers, but you’ll feel even better when you’ve got something to contribute of your own. Set up a drinks stand, give people their desert names – it’s up to you.
H is for him/her. We all know that gender’s a construct, and in the desert, you can embrace your true self beyond the confines of society. Wear what you want, how you want – there are no limits here.
I is Instax. No signal means no social media which means you can really get in touch with your spiritual side. But obviously you’ll need to document this for your loser friends back home, so make your memories last with an Instax, or better yet, take a picture of friends or strangers and let them hang on to it as a memento.
J is for judgement. There’s no room for judgement at AfrikaBurn. You’ll see some wild sights, but it’s important to let your cynicism fly free with the wind. Just remember to save your stories for the car ride home when morale might be a little low.
K is for “Keep it down”. There seems to be a misconception that the Burn is the biggest party you’ll ever have. Now, it might be. But for others that might not enter into the equation. Be considerate, and if you’re gonna have 24-hour benders for a week, maybe camp off away from the quiet zone.
L is for leggings. Arguably the most essential item of clothing you’ll take to the burn, nothing transitions better from scorching hot days wearing very little to freezing cold nights than a pair of tights. Bring spares along, it won’t be long before the guys in the camp ask to borrow a pair, and enquire as to how they can incorporate them into everyday life.
M is for military style. Perhaps it’s the harsh terrain, but military style has as much clout in Tankwa Town as a faux fur coat. Grab an oversized parka and some lace-up boots, and you’ll be set for a night of exploring.
N is for naked. For all this talk about what to wear and how to dress and bothering about how you look – you’ll never feel more comfortable than in your own skin. Take some water and a parasol, walk out into the desert, strip down into your birthday suit and enjoy yourself, au naturale.
O is for overindulgence. The Burn is a marvellous place to let yourself go – remove your inhibitions, go over the top, and embrace the veritable orgy of art, colours, dance, music and people. However, keep in mind that this is the desert and that actions have consequences. You do something stupid or dangerous, and there are no safety nets to rescue you.
P is for play. The theme for this year’s Burn. Get into the spirit, get interactive, think about how you can contribute meaningfully and have the best time that you possibly can (without pissing off others).
Q is for ‘Queen of the Desert’. The highlight of every Burn – every year on the final night, just before the big burn commences, the official committee gives out an award for the best-dressed person in the desert. Make sure you’re always looking your best, the judges are always watching. What do you win? The title of Queen of the Desert, along with some killer profile pics.
R is for rain or shine. Last year there was a serious storm, a few years back, torrential downpour. Prepare your wardrobe for every eventuality with a variety of practical pieces to accompany your bedazzled onesies, or risk being the saddest, yet most fabulous-looking person in the whole Karoo when the weather turns.
S is for sunglasses. The sun burns bright, and there’s barely any shade. Sunglasses will add to all-day comfort, and they’re a necessity from day three onwards when you’re looking slightly worse for wear.
T is for theme camps. If you haven’t joined one, make sure you check all of them out. People have put together amazing parties, art works and experiences that welcome your participation. Creating your own camp? Then you’ll need to make it as comfortable as possible with as many cushions, blankets, lights, lanterns and other decorative pieces as you can cram into your car.
U is for underwear. Always pack spares. Also, no one looks great riding a bicycle without underwear.
V is for vehicles. There is a social hierarchy that separates the newbies from the veterans: plebs walk everywhere and get blisters and complain, while everyone else has a bicycle. The real VIPs however, work long and hard to create amazing mutant vehicles which they then shlep all the way to Tankwa Town. If you’re not being transported through the desert in a ball pit hanging from 2 metal palm trees attached to the back of a bakkie disguised as a spider, then who the hell are you?
W is for warm clothes. Don’t be fooled by the the scorching daytime sun and the sight of half-naked people dancing around fires – the desert can drop below zero at night. Pack for warmth, with thick socks, long johns, anoraks, boots and chunky knits, gloves, scarves and jackets.
X is for ‘X’ marks the spot. As you set out for the day or night, make sure you agree on a meeting time and place with friends in case you get separated. The Burn is huge, and if you linger too long to finish that conversation about The Seven Planes of Existence with a waistcoat-wearing stranger, you might not find your crew again until bed time.
Y is for “Say YES” to everything! This is your time to try new things and explore new horizons. Except for drugs. And avoid the American dreadlock burn-veteran who asks you to drag him across the desert by a leash attached to his nipples. Oh, and scorpion-hunting after a few too many drinks – also a bad idea.
Z is for “zzz”. Sleep is essential unless you’re doing the burn for 3 days or less, in which case how did you get so much money? If you’re doing the full experience and camping for 5-to-7 days (or more!) then make sure you get your fair share of sleep. You’ll be putting your body through the wringer, so give it recovery time, then get on out and have some fun.