(words and photos by H)
In late 2011 I decided that I would not let money stand in my way and that in 2012 I would travel to Europe for three months (once you’ve fought that battle for a Schengen visa, you milk it as far as you can). Then I became infatuated with the concept of Burning Man but, cynic that I am, I did not want to go to the USA and I did not think that an event of that size could still practice the values it preached.
Then late one night somewhere on the internet I found Nowhere. It’s the European Burning Man regional (as AfrikaBurn is the African regional) and takes place in the north of Spain, right at the time that I was planning to be on the continent. So I made contact and offered to do spreadsheets and whatever I could do to help from the other side of the planet. I signed up to drive a rental vehicle to site (to ensure I got there) and next thing I knew I was with the first crew on a bare site… and was still there with the last crew, 22 days later.
In the Spanish dust I met Paul, who ran DPW for AfrikaBurn. Fast forward 8 months and I was on my way to Tankwa Town for the first time, with the first DPW crew to leave Cape Town.
In 42 days out there we: built a camp and home to survive all weather and wind; built and moved and set up 120 toilets complete with toilet paper, sawdust, EM and a brush(!); worked with power tools; lifted and carried some pretty heavy shit; painted and planted over 300 signs; burned things; built and set up the city grid of street lamps; ascended hills and mountains; swam in dams and reservoirs and a fire warmed jacuzzi; (ghost) rode bikes and bakkies, trailers and art cars; slept under the stars; dug trenches; watched the sun rise and set every day; watched the moon go through its complete cycle; saw lightning; heard thunder; survived a tummy bug; knew everything about each other’s bowel movements; survived a flu; partied; danced; burned things; cuddle bubbled; slept; didn’t sleep; shared; became friends for life; got drunk; got high; got low; watched our kitchen burn down on the Saturday of the event; watched as participants donated enough food, snacks and booze to keep us there for months, in luxury; MOOPed* for SIX DAYS; cried; laughed; bled; sweat; puked; took down everything we put up; burned things; built new storage; packed away everything neatly and left no trace!
*Moop – is Matter Out Of Place, anything brought there by the humans. The DPW crew walked around Tankwa Town (in the sun) in lines for six days picking up every stompie, sequin, feather and popcorn pit that event goers dropped. We picked up five barrels full of micro MOOP!
It is hard to describe the personal satisfaction and emotional growth one experiences during 42 days of hard physical labour in a very harsh environment. Looking back now I cannot believe I did not know my fellow crew members when we left Cape Town – with some I have such a close connection, it feels like we have been friends for ever (and we will be, for ever!)
Two weeks after I arrived back in Cape Town from that experience I boarded a plane for Spain – officially I was the Production Lead for Nowhere and the Media / Marketing Manager for the Junk Raft Armada. This year I will return to AfrikaBurn as the Logistic Coordinator for DPW…
It is crazy to think how the Burning Man cult(ure) has changed my life. From ad agency PR poppie to applying similar skills, in dirty shorts and barely anything else, in deserts and on rivers around the world… I have never regretted a single moment.
We have already been working hard for months to make AfrikaBurn 2014 happen. I hope to use this blog platform to share some of DPW’s stories and missions, to bridge the gap where people do not realise or know what this amazing crew does to make Tankwa Town happen.
In love and pain,
(you can read more of H’s writing here)