Afrika Burns – Gifting and Hospitality

October 26, 2008

The philosopher Jacques Derrida wrote at length about the Possible and Impossible Aporias. He believed that “The Gift” and “Hospitality” along with other examples were impossible as the there is always an economy at play. For example, there is no thing as a pure gift as even if the receiver says “thank-you”, the “thank you” is a form of payment. We can take it further and say that even the “satisfaction” of giving is a form of payment. Derrida also believed that with hospitality, the host was empowered and hospitality was limited to the implied rules of the host. An example here would be seen in guests that start to destroy the host’s home, start fighting with the host or simply overstay their welcome. Under these conditions, altruism would play a part but eventually the hospitality would more than likely end.

OK, enough of that!!!

Let’s lighten up…..




 Last week-end I took myself and my son to Afrika Burns. This is an Arts Festival in the Karoo that is also an experimental community of gifting, self-expression and self reliance.  

We were part of a collective called “Sanctuary” and the idea was to create a space where we could serve herbal tea and freshly baked bread. The space was created in a Bedouin style tent. We had arranged bean bags and stacks of cushions, a low table and made things comfortable and aesthetically chilled as possible in the heat of the Karoo. Our 12 volt sound system played meditative and relaxing music.

 On Saturday morning our “shop” opened and it wasn’t long before we were full!!

Our small group (both children and adults) were all involved in one way or the other. For the rest of the day we served the refreshing tea and scrumptious bread to a constant stream of guests.  I would say that our place was a sanctuary to those that came and enjoyed our gifting and hospitality.

The experience of giving and hosting in this way is most extraordinary. What we offered was small, however the sense of euphoria and pleasure around giving was far greater than what was offered. I believe that the giver was rewarded beyond his or her giving.

As I consider this, I realize that Derrida is right and gifting and hospitality are impossible, but not in the way that I first understood. We can take it a step further and look beyond the physical transaction if we consider the (im)possible as a spiritual act . Afrika Burns gave me, my son and my friends at Sanctuary the beautiful gift of experiencing the divine (im)possible. It made our gifts seem insignificant.

Thanks and I look forward to next year!!!




This posting is part of the Afrika Burn 2008 Syncroblog:

Also see


6 Responses to “Afrika Burns – Gifting and Hospitality”

  1. […] Andrew Hendrikse : “Gifting and hospitality“ […]

  2. […] Andrew Hendrikse : “Gifting and hospitality“ […]

  3. Nic Paton Says:

    My man, you were there in the thick of it. I like you in the “xtreme MC” role, I must say.

    The Burn is in fact all about the (im)possible. But I am impressed that such idealism did not put off the cynics.

    I find it quite invigorating how you ponder deconstructivist philosophy on the left but by dang you DO IT on the right. Thus is the heart made full – solid reflection and direct practical presence amongst the Family of All Gods creatures.

  4. Nic,

    Thanks for your generous comments.

    By the way, you win the “free” gift for being the 5000th hit at FEOTU!!

    Love and blessings


  5. nic paton Says:

    OK a 10 l vat of Islay will do nicely.

  6. […] Andrew Hendrikse : “Gifting and hospitality“ […]

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