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Tankwa Karoo is the site of the annual AfrikaBurn – a temporary city in South Africa that is an official regional event of Burning Man and includes art, theme camps, costume, mutant cars, music and performance, just like Black Rock City. This year’s theme was Archtypes, and several members of the Burning Man and Burning Man Project including Beth Scarborough (BettieJune), Bear Kittay and Dominic Tinio (DA) as well as Michelle Ochoa (Black Rock Solar) journeyed to Africa to experience the event, learn from the AfrikaBurn organizers and serve as both a resource and as ambassadors from Black Rock City and Burning Man Project.
“I was totally inspired by AfrikaBurn and the Burning Man culture in South Africa,” said Kittay, Burning Man Project Social Alchemist. “We hosted a salon on Tankwa on Sunday with 23 of the organizers which is the start of a much more active two-way dialogue.”
Running from May 1-6, this year’s event attracted a record 8,000 joyful participants from around the world, and is the largest event outside of Black Rock City. Held at a private farm named Stonehenge, AfrikaBurn began in 2007 and its main sculpture is known as San Clan. Designed to look like a San rock art glyph of a group of people, its intention is to convey the idea of unity and community at the event.
Burning Man Project volunteers teamed with the Black Rock City Earth Guardians to teach San Franciscans how to turn ordinary blue jeans into Matter-Out-Of-Place (MOOP) bags that Earth Day SF participants used to clean Civic Center Plaza.
“It’s fun to create something that’s also useful,” said Earth Day SF participant Yolanda Raes. “It’s nice of them to do this.”
Burning Man Project co-hosted a MOOP bag workshop with Black Rock City Earth Guardians once before, but this was their first collaboration at Earth Day SF. Burning Man promotes a “Leave No Trace” policy to ensure anything brought to an event returns home with participants and Burning Man Project used Earth Day as an opportunity to convey the 10 Principles that reflect the community’s ethos and culture as it has organically developed since the event’s inception.
People stopping by the Project / Earth Guardians booth could pick from pre-made bags or make their own, using a pre-sewn bag which they’d attach to a donated dress tie and decorate with paints.
“It was awesome to see the art and spirit of protecting our Earth catch on,” said Karina O’Connor, volunteer Black Rock City Earth Guardian Manager at Burning Man.
Black Rock City Earth Guardians host regular workshops for participants to craft MOOP bags and learn more about Leave No Trace. The full schedule is on their website at EarthGuardians.net.
“The term MOOP is a great example of the creative culture of Burning Man – taking something like picking up garbage and making it fun,” explained Heather White, Program Manager for Burning Man Project. “With the help of the Black Rock City Earth Guardians, we had great conversations with people as they selected, or made, a MOOP bag of their own.”
The Black Rock City Earth Guardians are dedicated to educating and inspiring people to practice “Leave No Trace” and other green practices. They are a fixture in Black Rock City in the Nevada desert and have expanded their work to include families, schools, organizations and public officials, encouraging everyone to improve and protect the planet.
When Larry Harvey and Marian Goodell were asked to speak at the European Lab 2013 conference in Lyon, France, it was a perfect opportunity to continue efforts by the founders and staff with Black Rock City, LLC and Burning Man Project to encourage the worldwide spread of the culture through relationship building.
In this case, Larry and Marian were able to spend considerable time with the organizers of a newly formed non-profit French Burning Man regional group, as well as more than 60 of its members through a series of meet-ups and Q & A sessions. The French group began as Burning Nights in 2006 with 40 people meeting in a small apartment, and evolved into the current organization, with Marc Zaganski and Phillippe Knafo serving as Regional Contact and nine additional people serving on the Board of Directors. Among their current activities is a CORE Project for Burning Man entitled Stairway to Heaven.
“There’s a lot of interest in Europe in what Burning Man is planning and we want to cultivate that interest,” Marian said. “We’re making global outreach a priority. We had a group in London, had senior staff at KiwiBurn and four of us came to Paris. We’re building and strengthening our network of people as a delivery mechanism for the Burning Man culture and the conversation around the culture.”
“It’s really exciting to see what’s happening on a global scale, and our experience in France is a great example,” Larry said.
Longtime Burning Man artist Dana Albany is working with San Francisco Boys & Girls Clubs and burner families on a spacecraft made with recycled materials that is traveling to local schools, art and science centers and will eventually make its way to Black Rock City.
Burning Man Project teamed with Black Rock Arts Foundation, The Crucible, Exploratorium, Black Rock City, LLC, Maker Faire and Albany on the creation of the Youth Education Spacecraft (Y.E.S.) Project.
“This is a great example of what can be done collaboratively with other mission-aligned non-profits,” said Project Board Founding Member Harley DuBois. “It’s wonderful to see kids create art, and be so engaged with learning about so many diverse subjects at the same time. We’re excited to take the lead in helping to make this happen.”
The spacecraft is 12’ in diameter and 8’ high. Burner families and children involved in San Francisco Boys & Girls Clubs created mosaics made from repurposed, found and salvaged materials and fastened them to the ship.
“This is an incredible opportunity for children from diverse backgrounds to build something out of the realm of their consciousness, beyond their wildest dreams,” Dana said.
To build the spacecraft, kids (and their parents) worked with metals and mosaics, built molds, tried their hands at glass fusion and glass blowing, and worked with photography, videography soundscape creation, robotics and solar technologies. They also incorporated elements of education on ancient civilizations, space travel, astronomy and environmentalism.
The spacecraft is made to be explored, and kids are encouraged to interact with video and audio equipment installed in the spacecraft’s interior.
Now on tour, the spacecraft is making visits to Maker Faire, Exploratorium and ultimately the Burning Man event in Black Rock City, where children who participated in its creation will help serve as guides.
Burning Man Project’s inspiration comes from many sources. One of our most enthusiastic supporters, David Darst, recently sent along this encouragement. Darst is an avid Burner and author, and head of Morgan Stanley’s Investment Strategy division. He advises:
• Be kind to everybody you meet.
• You can’t live a perfect day until you do something for someone who will not be able to repay you.
• Listen if you want to be heard.
We love how simple and profound these admonitions are. And they are completely relevant to our mission of sharing Burning Man culture in the world. Here are some of the ways we are taking Darst’s ideas to heart.
Our mission is enormous, but our budget is not. As a start-up nonprofit organization, our resources are limited to what we can raise with charitable donations. So we are making hard choices about what we can reasonably accomplish. We are focusing our attention on three areas where experience has shown have the biggest impact with our volunteers and funds: Civic Involvement, Education, and the Arts. As a nonprofit, these efforts are not designed to be repaid, but refined and multiplied.
We are teaming up with the Black Rock Arts Foundation in Fernley, Nevada and the Downtown Project in Las Vegas. Locally, we are paying close attention to our neighborhood at Sixth and Market, working with like-minded nonprofits on a children’s art initiative, volunteering to serve meals to the homeless on Valentine’s Day, and collaborating with One King’s Lane, a local tech startup with shared values.
And we are eager to listen. Wherever Burners and idea-makers are gathering, we are firing up the tea kettle and asking for a chat. Right now, we are collecting ideas at KiwiBurn in New Zealand and connecting with friends Down Under. We are trading ideas with enlightened businesses, checking in with thought leaders in London and New York and Istanbul, soliciting best practices from nonprofits and foundations. If you have some inspiration or ideas for us, we’re more than ready to hear them, learn from them, and share them, too.