SUNDAY TIMES - What to know before you let your freak flag fly at AfrikaBurn
Sunday Times Lifestyle By Yolisa Mkele, 2017-04-20 00:00:00.0

What to know before you let your freak flag fly at AfrikaBurn

Never mind looking like a silly billy because everything goes at AfrikaBurn.
Image: Supplied

This year's AfrikaBurn theme is 'Play', so check out our wardrobe suggestions and get set for one wacky week in the Karoo, writes Yolisa Mkele

Somewhere in the middle of the Karoo a group of hippies are planning a massive soiree. It's once again time for the annual iteration of AfrikaBurn - the festival held, for the 10th year, at Tankwa where luminous clouds of dust swirl through the ancient landscape.

There will be dust, a touch of recreational drug use, and a general sense of free love amid enormous art installations that will all go up in flames on Saturday April 29's Night of the Burn. The spectacle is mind boggling, with fantastical flaming beasts bounding through the desert and lighting up the inky skies.

The invitation says you can't bring money but are more than welcome to give and receive gifts from other guests. This leaves you with one final detail to take care of: what to wear? Given that this year's theme for AfrikaBurn is "Play" we thought we would throw a couple of suggestions your way.


Skin is in

This is probably the one place where the concept of body shaming is passé. Not a soul is going to look at your bare, middle-aged chest and think anything more than "that person's ribcage seems comprehensively covered".

AfrikaBurn takes place in a desert, which means the afternoons are hotter than a radioactive jalapeño, and in those conditions the idea of a sticky, sweat-drenched T-shirt seems silly. Just don't get too naked: sand has a way of punishing those who take chances.


Don't think of colours in the Vogue sense - those muted, demure attempts at inoffensive displays of personality. To hear them tell it, AfrikaBurn is about "radical self-expression" so whip out your most neon of neons. Skip past fuchsia and invite her eccentric grandmother along. Hell, why not go full hippie and bring an entire tie-dyed onesie.

Wrap up

On the subject of onesies, instinct may lead you to believe that the desert is a natural frying pan with the heat constantly set on maximum. Do not trust it, for you will be led astray. When the sun leaves it takes every trickle of heat with it. If you're not prepared you may find yourself having to huddle with a half-naked pirate for heat.

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Toe the line

You spent R1,500+ on those snazzy Adidas sneakers that you're about to pack into your bag. Take them out. Much like a terrorist in Guantanamo Bay, there's a slim chance that the shoes you wear to AfrikaBurn will survive. That means you finally have an opportunity to do something useful with your Crocs or those hideous leather "dad" sandals that wrap around the big toe. As a matter of fact bring any pair of shoes that should not be worn in civilised society and give them an undeservedly grand sendoff.

Let's talk rubbish

One of life's most amusing ironies is that, for a group of people who seem to hate rules, hippies are incredibly anal. This is especially true of the ones running AfrikaBurn, who will set their tie-dyed mafia on you should you arrive in any type of feathers or things that can blow off. It's obviously for commendable reasons but their commitment to the rules does still bring a smile to the cockles of one's heart.

AfrikaBurn takes place from the April 24-30. For information visit

This article was originally published in The Times.