The First Burn

Sep 18, 2023

Mark ‘Yonderman’ Stirling’s Burn journey ignited when he stumbled upon the Playa during a camping trip in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert back in ’94. In true Burn style, this chance encounter sparked a blazing connection that would change January for many Aotearoa-based Burners for years to come. 

After becoming New Zealand’s regional representative for Burning Man, Mark decided to bring a taste of Burner culture to the Kiwi shores. In 2004, he organised the first ever regional Burn anywhere, choosing the South Island’s Visionz festival as its setting. This event, held in early 2004, was met with roaring enthusiasm. A whopping TWO HUNDRED people showed up. Participants, whether seasoned Burners or newcomers lured by pamphlets and posters, embraced the Burner ethos with open arms. VIZIONZ is no more, but the Burn is very much still going strong!

The delicious debut of the New Zealand regional Burn fueled Kiwiburners’ passions, leading to two standalone Burns in the South Island in the following years, drawing approximately 200 participants each time. Mark teamed up with his friend and local drum-maker/festival organiser, Grant ‘Tribalman’ Knowles, to co-run these unforgettable events.

From a chance discovery to a fiery Kiwiburn tradition, Mark’s journey epitomises the magic that can be found in unexpected encounters. 

Image credit: Kiwiburn Website (Mark with the first ever effigy in 2004: Humble beginnings!)

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