An excercise in practical creative expression and entreprenuership

Being in the industry of personal and organisational development, I have never come across a better example of applied creativity than what I experienced at the Afrika Burns festival this year. Organisations spend millions of rands trying to simulate experiences where people take ownership of the values of the organisation and work towards the objectives aligned with their strategy. As with most drawbacks of simulations, the stage has already been set and the opportunities for creativity and ownership are limited by the parameters of the exercise. As always, giving people a white canvass on which to create their vision has always been the best place for stimulating raw creativity and innovation. At Afrika Burns, this canvass comes in the form of the desolate, dry and lunar landscape that characterises the Karoo Desert. The rules are simple. Bring what you need, leave no trace, harm no one, no corporate branding,no exchange of money, only gifting and bartering, otherwise the only limit is your imagination and your ability to act entrepreneurially to realise your vision!

Our journey started in early January when a group of of enthusiastic "burners" got together with a desire to make their mark on what is becoming a truly world renowned experience. Ideas had been flowing since the last "burn" and agreeing on a vision that everyone wanted to work towards presented some challenges. What was interesting is that given the culture the Burn promotes, it immediately instills a sense of democracy and openness to ideas that would not normally be seen in the board room or down at the pub. The vision was of the "Cactopuss", an Octopuss shaped structure that would be a space for interactive music, dancing and general creative expression. The whole structure, including 8 tentacles, would be lit up in UV and glow in the dark to give on coming visitors the vision of an Octopus emerging out of the desert.

What we needed to make this vision a reality, we did not know now? How much money we required through fund raising, we speculated a lot! Who would be keen to help us make this vision a reality, we had no idea? These concerns or obstacles did not matter much because each person left the meeting completely inspired with our vision and ready to make it a reality.

Almost 4 months later, a group of almost 50 members of what became known as the "Succulents Camp" were heading off to the Karoo desert to manifest our creative inspiration. The group had collectively raised over R35000 through innovative fund raisers.These events were conceptualised and implemented by members who were given the opportunity to engage in their individual passions and make a contribution to the cause. Fund raisers included, the first ever competitive beach bats competition, a valentines day movie screening of Quentin Tarantino's "True Romance" on top of Signal Hill at Sunset, an all night Poker competition, a drumming circle and one hell of  house party aptly called Pablo's Summer Send Off.

Packed with in an 8 ton truck, 5 bukkies and  10 motor vehicles, we had 600m of black wattle, an 8.5 m x 4.5 meter Geodisic dome, food, a full kitchen, tents, carpets, bean bags, scaffolding, showers, generators and a smile across our faces, we headed off to the Karoo.

Our vision had been enriched and extended to include the following creative expressions by members of the camp who had taken ownership of a specific area with almost zero delegation or management required. Our creative attractions included a dance floor with Cape Towns top DJ's who all played for free; an interactive musical parade with over 100 instruments; a virtual haircut; an old school mini cooper art car covered in Astro Turf; a "path to nowhere" which grew organically as people laid LED lights along a path leading off into the desert in a direction chosen by them and finally a 4m wide chandelier made of recycled material that created a UV kelp forest in the bosom of the Cactopuss.

We were greeted with creative expressions from other camps and collectively these combined to offer festival goers a smorgasbord of creative activities, journeys and indulgences. "Burning Mail" allowed you to write a letter from the middle of the Karoo and have it delivered to any camp or any address in the world. Heart Space allowed people to connect spiritually through yoga, 5 rhythms and discussion groups. Ohmm Affairs allowed you to create a new identity that personified the spirit of creativity and they would recognise this transformation by giving you a new passport that you could get stamped at all the camps you visited. Ma Cherrie gave away much appreciated morning pancakes with her trade mark Cherrie Jam. A journey down the Rabbit Hole would lead you through a myriad of strange objects until you came to a checkered floor room with a table holding little bottles labeled "Drink Me". After indulging in what tasted like a staunch version of  Gummie Bear Juice, one stoops down to climb through a door that takes one to "The Mad Hatters Tea Party" where people of all ages danced on a grassy field, filled with mushroom stools, indulging in cupcakes, sweets and tea served by the Mad Hatter.

Being immersed in the Afrika Burns festival allows people to taste and feel a sensation that normal society does not often provide. The festival goes way beyond hedonism, abuse of mind and body or even escapism. It creates a platform where people feel that they can safely express themselves and overcome the inhibitions that usually dominate 'civilised society'. What makes Afrika Burns unique is that it puts children and adults on an equal playing field like no other experience. Nothing gives one more pleasure that watching a child lead an adult through an experience where it was the adult that was breaking new boundaries and the child was doing what comes naturally- creative discovery.The belief is that through our need to conform to the traditions,customs and norms of society, we are almost stunted in our ability to express ourselves fully- At the burn, people almost feel as if they have been given permission to let themselves go! A giant Lego man in the middle of the desert was a perfect symbol of such an attitude with it substituting Lego with the the words Let-Go. With each person bringing their full creativity to the stage, it acts like a catalyst that gives the burn the diversity of sounds,images and feelings and in so doing, creates a world that fundamentally shifts peoples appreciation of themselves and the creative capacity of society.

The Buddhists know better than anybody that for creation to take place, there must be destruction. Instead of intricate Mandalas that they destroy with one brush of their hands after months of painting, burners create elaborate artistic sculptures which, having taken just as long to prepare, are burnt to the ground creating a gift like spectacle for all to observe. The ashes bring not sorrow, loss or sadness, but joy as one reflects on the journey, the new friends made and the excitement at the vision that has been created through experiencing Afrika Burns for another yea. Gallery