2017 Theme



“Play is the highest form of research.” – Albert Einstein

Play – an activity from which one derives amusement, entertainment, enjoyment or satisfaction by taking a participatory rather than a passive role – opens up endless possibilities. It feeds, infects and proliferates. It roots our sense of order. Play amplifies life. It’s our connective tissue.

The cultural historian Johan Huizinga was convinced that play precedes human culture, “that civilisation itself arises and unfolds in and as play.”  In his influential book ‘Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture’ (1938) he went so far as to propose changing the human taxonomy from Homo Sapiens (Wise Man) to Homo Ludens (Playing Man). If play is a “temporary sphere of activity with a disposition all of its own” then it offers freedom: to step out of ordinary common reality into moments of differentness or secrecy; an invitation to dress up; to make an image of something more beautiful, or more sublime, or more dangerous than what it usually appears.

Play offers us a portal: a magical doorway that connects locations, dimensions, or points in time. Where truths are to be found obliquely, where nonsense, irrationality and intuition are prized. Openings to these magic portals are varied and wondrous. It may be a fabled wardrobe, the break of day, an inviting smile, or the blank canvas of the burn.

Step through the looking glass, fall down the rabbit hole, be out to lunch in die plek waar die poppe dans, hoog in die takke, waar jakkals trou met wolf se vrou.

See you on the playground that is Tankwa Town!

The call for theme proposals for 2018 is now open – if you’d like to submit yours, click here.


How was the theme arrived at?

Different permutations of the concept of ‘play’ were submitted by members of our community following the callout for theme submissions in May. Thereafter, members of our Art Committee 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 (the newsletter, Facebook and Twitter).
  • All proposals are collated and have the proposers name’s taken off the document so as to make it anonymous.
  • Artcom 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 via Google docs, this is optional for these teams, but we often get nice input.
  • We mull on it and reconvene and discuss more.
  • Artcom passes their proposed theme through the directorship for approval.
  • Write up and fine tune the theme development
  • Pass through the directors for final approval on text
  • Announce the theme
  • Go to Tankwa and make fabulous things.

Who is Artcom?

Brad Baard, Roger Van Wyk, Robert Weinek, Samantha Bendzulla, Monique Schiess and Isa Marques.

What have past theme been?

For the full list of all themes from 2007 to date, see this page.

Coronavirus Advisory:

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