MTN Bushfire is a uniquely African – yet globally infused – festival experience that welcomes thousands of people to an atmosphere of tolerance and passionate commitment to music, the arts, and the environment.
Every year, approximately 29,000 attendees hailing from 58 different countries converge on the peaceful Malkerns Valley in Swaziland for an energizing and uplifting weekend that celebrates the music and arts of Africa and beyond.
More than simply a music festival, MTN Bushfire is a holistic experience rife with arts, cultures, crafts, food markets, and specialized zones that combine to create an explosive and unforgettable three-day event. It’s no wonder that the festival has garnered many accolades, including winning the African Best Responsible Event Award in 2017, being named one of the “7 African Music Festivals You Really Have to See” by CNN, and listed by BBC as a “Top African Festival” during its decade-plus of existence.
Four stages at Bushfire offer attendees myriad experiences as they travel through the festival. On the main stage, you can find international artists and continental headliners. The House on Fire Amphitheater is where you can find more abstract performance: poetry, theatre, storytelling, and dance. The Barn Acoustic Stage offers a more intimate atmosphere. The Firefly stage is where the DJs, rappers and hip-hop artists can be found. Past lineups have included artists like Kwaito group TKZee, Belgian rapper Baloji, and Mali’s Songhoy Blues, as well as an abundance of South African favorites like Pitch Black Afro, Pablo Nouvelle and Native Young.
Bring Your Fire
With its BRING YOUR FIRE and GREEN YOUR FIRE initiatives for social and environmental change and sustainability, MTN Bushfire cultivates what one journalist described as, “a living, breathing creative ecosystem.”
At BRING YOUR FIRE attendees are encouraged to express themselves creatively and contribute and engage in its creative workshops, arts exhibitions, and guest speaker programming.
Festival Director Jiggs Thorne explains further: “MTN Bushfire is a celebration of the human spirit and the joy of creative expression that seeks to encourage everyone to contribute and engage. In doing this we ask questions of ourselves, of artists, and of our audiences on how best to shape the festival we have created, how do we become practical dreamers, and how do we continue to BRING OUR FIRE? Exploring these questions defines our festival and is the real spirit that people takehome with them!”
Recently, the festival created a sustainability-minded spinoff of the BRING YOUR FIRE initiative called GREEN YOUR FIRE. This campaign focuses on recycling, saving energy, using natural materials, and working together to find ways to promote healthy ecosystems. In 2017, GREEN YOUR FIRE reduced water usage during the festival with showers controlled by stop valves, which allow water to run for only 40 seconds at a time. The initiative also took steps to increase recycling within the festival by placing bins throughout the campsites, and iintroduced a cafe that only sold food and drinks packaged in natural products to reduce the use of plastics.
Do It for The Culture
One massive highlight of this festival – and something fans rave about every year – is the food. The MTN Bushfire Global Food Village is a celebration of food; presenting a diverse array of culturally inspired gourmet street foods, festival-goers are invited on a savory journey of the senses with tantalizing tastes from East Africa, the Mediterranean and back to the hearths of traditional Swazi huts. Explore the different pockets of the festival to discover a delicious selection of pop-up eateries that will fuel the fire in your belly.
Another key place to find a convergence of cultures is in the Artisanal Design Marketplace. The MTN Bushfire Artisanal Design Marketplace is an interactive space where creativity and cultural curiosity are everything. The space is an ethical consumer’s dream because it only features companies and artisans contributing in a positive way to the environment and their communities.
A Festival Alliance
MTN Bushfire is a founding member of IGODA, a unique alliance of fellow regional festivals including Zakifo Festival (South Africa), Azgo Festival (Mozambique), Sakifo Festival (Reunion Island), and Bassline Africa Day (South Africa). Igoda is an isiZulu word meaning “knot” or “to bind together,” making it the perfect name for such a coalition. IGODA calls itself a “touring circuit” meant to provide the opportunity for artists and fans to travel across the region and celebrate its interconnected creative economies. For the festivals themselves, IGODA builds artist exposure and diversity, audience development and diversity, and job creation. For the artists IGODA provides sustainable skills development and collaboration opportunities. IGODA also gives these five festivals a larger platform with which to address social issues via arts and culture, and encourages the promotion of social cohesion and responsibility.