Of the 10 Principles, Gifting is the one for me that really makes a Burn special. It’s the foundation of how the event is run, and the connections we make with each other. But it’s also the principle that I think is least understood by Burgins (First Time Burners).
So, what is Gifting? Well I’ll tell you what it’s not. It’s not Bartering. Bartering is the exchange of goods. “I’ll give you this thing in exchange for you giving me that thing”. Gifting, on the other hand, is the offer of a gift with no expectation of return. And I say “offer”, because there are two parts to gifting - giving and receiving. It’s one thing to give a gift, but if your gift is not wanted, that needs to be respected. Consent applies to Gifting too!
Let me tell a story to demonstrate. I was Rangering at Afrikaburn one year, and a gentleman (covered head to toe in gold glitter, but that’s for a separate post) came up to me and offered me a token of thanks for my volunteering. It was a little Eiffel Tower keychain, the ones you buy at the $2 store. I asked him the significance of the token, as I thought it may have some importance to him. But he had a pocketful of them as “gifts”. He wasn’t French, and it symbolised nothing except a factory in China staffed by underpaid workers distributing unnecessary plastic into the world. I politely declined his “gift”, and asked if he would like to offer me a high five and a thanks instead.
At the end of my shift, my Ranger partner offered me the wire necklace he’d been working on throughout our shift as a gift and memento of our time together - it was beautiful, handmade, and I still have it to this day.
Junk you’ve purchased from the $2 store is not a gift, it is junk that somebody probably doesn’t want and is too polite to say so. It represents the unnecessary commodification we’re trying to get away from in the default world, and if it doesn’t become MOOP, it will definitely end up in landfill. Before purchasing “gifts”, consider whether you would be genuinely grateful to receive them yourself.
The best gifts? Your time. Your offer of assistance to someone in need. Prepared some extra food? Offer it to your neighbours. Camp mate forgot their pillow? Offer them your spare. Stumbled across someone struggling through a challenging experience? Stop what you’re doing and help them over to Sanctuary.
If this is your first burn, I encourage you not to bring “stuff” to gift. Instead, gift your time to help your theme camp set up, pack down or run events. Or sign up for a community crew shift (shameless plug!) - Burning Seed is run solely by people gifting their time and it’s a great way to meet people as well. You can check out the roles available and apply online here, or come along to the Part!c!pat!on Station near Centre Camp to fill urgent vacancies during the event.
Rhianna “Phoenix” Hobbs
Crew Department Lead