AfrikaBurn 2012

Art Installation at AfrikaBurn 2012


I’ve just come back from a couple of days spent out in the remote desert of the Tankwa Karoo, about five hours drive from Cape Town. Every year an amazing art and music festival is held here, and there is always amazingly photogenic weirdness to be seen. The event is called AfrikaBurn, and it’s in its sixth year. It’s the Africa regional event of the Burning Man festival held every year at Black Rock City in Nevada in the US.

It’s a far smaller event, attracting about 5,000 participants to the 50,000 at the US event, but it’s very satisfying to attend. You are expected to take everything you need for yourself: food, water, shelter. There is nothing for sale, and a gifting economy is in effect. Virtually everyone is in costume, you’ll see more sequins, velvet, and mirror balls than you’ve ever seen before. There is also a huge amount of off-the-wall art, and you can spend days exploring it all.

This particular installation reminded me of the surrealist Rene Magritte’s use of umbrellas. I’ve pored over the event brochure, and I can’t really tell whose work it is.

Edit: The installation was put together by a group of friends and architecture students at the University of the Free State and is called Death from Above. See the comments section for more details, and a heart-rending counterclaim.


Before and After

I tried to make this image a conventional bracketed HDR, but the umbrellas were mounted on rather wobbly sticks. Even though the wind was blowing very gently, they were all bobbing around quite a bit, and there was just no way I could align the bracketed images. So I gave up and tone-mapped a single image in Photomatix. It worked pretty well all the same, and sorted out the alignment issues. After that I adjusted the tonal ranges using luminance masks, which I’ve spoken about in previous posts. Finally I selectively boosted the contrast and saturation of the image. I think it worked out well.


Art Installation at AfrikaBurn 2012 (before)Art Installation at AfrikaBurn 2012

4 Responses to “AfrikaBurn 2012”

  • Death from above

    This was our installation. We’re a group of friends/architects from the University of the Free State/Cape Town/everywhere contributing to the idea of AfrikaBurn. Stay in contact; we hope to contribute to next year’s Burn.

    • Thank you for clarifying!

      I also received the following mail from the Death from Above group of friends:

      Honored to see your magnificent picture of our installation! We are a
      group of friends in our final year of architecture at the University
      of the Free State. We were a bit late to register which is why you
      won’t find us in the brochure, but the installation was called “death
      from above”, commenting on the fragility of human life and our fear of
      things ‘above us’, natural and spiritual. We handed out 100 umbrellas
      over the course of the festival, including the ones in the
      installation. Thanks so much, glad you liked it!

  • This heart-rending story was also received from baby sloth activists:

    Dear Sir

    I noticed that you are struggling to find out what the umbrellas are
    and who put them there. It was my installation, and it’s called Save
    the Sloths. It is to raise awareness of wetness that is experienced by
    baby sloths in the rain forests. They need to wear pyjamas. That’s how
    wet it is.
    We felt that umbrellas in the desert would highlight their plight in a
    way that nothing else could.

    It even rained that one day – I think the weather gods were showing
    their support to the plight of the baby sloths.

    Sloths R Us

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