Words: Shannon Smith / Photos: as per credit
The hype is huge, the excitement is next level, the build-up is ever growing and everyone is jittery with excitement. Like teenagers going to their first ball, outfits are strewn around the bedroom – each more colourful and flamboyant than the previous. (Only this time with no glitter and worn with a heightened level of confidence). The spare tyres are all pumped up, the rebar has been ordered and the camp To-Do list is all checked off. It is my first AfrikaBurn, but I’m rolling with some veterans.
They have everything, including a solar powered pineapple light and a list that they made last year for things that they need to bring for this year. (The pineapple is a return trooper). They have provided me with enough knowledge for me to feel like I’ve been there already, so I gather all my items from their List of Wisdom and I ride their experienced waves all the way through to Tankwa. Sunnies? Check. Bloody Mary ingredients? Check. Purple Tutu? Check. Survival Guide? Check. Sunblock? Check. An entire crate of art materials? Check. I have everything I could possibly need, including friends & family; high spirits with me – I am ready for this jol. I have absolutely no idea what the next week will have in store for me, but I’m armed with an open mind, an open heart and a whole load of gifting that I intend on doing. It is 2016, the year of X, and I am absolutely delighted to be part of this experience.
This is where one would tell you about the Godzilla road to Tankwa Town, the satisfaction that comes with banging the shit out of the Virgin Gong, the decadence of Alienz Coffee in the morning and the freedom that comes with showering with the Birthday Suits. This is where you’d expect to hear about the fascinating structures and the hours spent in awe, appreciating every artwork, human being and communal effort contributed towards making this a masterpiece in motion – constantly evolving, day by day. It truly was an evolve-olution; everything is a “Wow!” factor in the desert.
But all these “Wows” – you can see them for yourself. You can join the Critical Tits parade, you can send your own Burning Mail, and you can certainly dance to the deepest, dankest, dirtiest tunes at the Spirit Train. It’s all yours for the taking. The crucial bits that make these experiences different for each individual is how you interpret them, the people you are with, the energy you bring to the space. And these, most likely, are the most important factors that will contribute to your overall experience of the Burn and ultimately, your experience of Life.
As most stories go, this one involves a guy; someone I had met pre-Burn who had joined for the week. We were still figuring each other out, (we never did) seeing where it would go, (absolutely nowhere) and open for a bit of romance in the desert (which never happened). We spent a few hours together each day, roaming the Binnekring; quickly realised that none of us wanted to do what the other enjoyed. I wanted to start the one day with laughing yoga, he wanted to sit and consume copious amounts of Nutella pancakes. I wanted to slackline; he… did not. I wanted to take pictures of art, he wanted to take pictures of himself. By the end of the day, we realised that the only way we’d be able to endure each other’s company was if ridiculous amounts of alcohol was involved – which brought about an incredibly fantastic night, I won’t lie. We partied and explored, I rode his bike backwards, I fell off his bike, we laughed. Then we eventually grew tired, went to sleep, woke up hungover and I realised that I had to commute with the sober other for as long as it took for the first tequila to come around.
It was at that moment where I stopped myself; said “Hang on – What is Radical Self Expression, if I need to be inebriated just to enjoy myself??” No no no. I got up, got dressed, jammed a yoga session in the middle of my camp, grabbed fruits; nuts & whatever else I could fit into my backpack, hopped on my bicycle; off I went. I was going nowhere in particular, I just knew that I wanted the ease of doing, saying and being what I wanted. Which started, of course, with a coffee. At the same time, I bumped into one of my friends from the Garden Route who promptly opened a jar of honey-basked treats of the fungus form. Hugs, laughter, acrobat shows, tennis, pop up dancefloors, gifting, cartwheel races and a picnic in the Binnekring formed the rest of my day.
It was when I was lying on my back, feet and arms up in the air, pretending to be a dead ant, that I realised “You, my girl, are fucking weird”. And I felt content with that. Glancing at the dead ant next to me, I realised that this being was just as weird. Rolling over onto my tummy; looking around me, I realised that all these people are bizarrely, unapologetically weird. The naked man with a PC monitor on his head, the lady dressed as Medusa, the forest fairy clan floating around with Sage; the dominatrix dressed woman jumping on her man’s back, screaming “To Infinity, and Beyond!”
We are Weird. Life is Weird. Normal is Weird. Even the word Weird is weird, if you say it enough times. (Trust me, I tried. It’s like the word Frock). Frocking weird, man. But what’s actually ironically cool is to be okay with your weird. Embrace it, and be your own weird-infused energy. It was here that I really learned the value in that. Once you truly are your own energy, you will be able to do, see and experience so much more based on what you are suddenly capable of attracting into your life. You attract ease. You become ease, which ultimately allows others to be easy around you. Why would you ever sacrifice your energy, or allow your energy to be sucked by people who try drag you off your wavelength? There is so much potential for living a life that resonates with you, once you grasp the freedom of being You.
My freedom found me hungry, so I meandered my way nostalgically back to my camp, where I found my Mom in her favourite crop top, a gin in her hand, cooking up a storm. I could’ve cried with gratitude. I admired her, and the synchronicity of natural progression. There’s no need to force anything. Zips on jeans, ponytails, relationships – none of this needs force when they should flow. Wear shorts, let your hair down; ditch the dude honey – Be Free!! I then spent the rest of the day eating good food, drinking pretty drinks, being with my Humans and dancing under the flame of a Land Rover-turned Rhino dancefloor. I came Home, in so many ways.
“So how was AfrikaBurn?”, they all ask. The answer for everyone will be backed by a different level of interpretation. Your answer is entirely dependent on what you bring to the party. It depends on what your intentions are and how you express them. Your answer will be sculpted by a flashback of memories, emotions and encounters with people whose names you may or may not remember. It is up to you to make them count. Participate. Be Yourself. Let Your Freak Flag Fly. Wear a Frock.
This is AfrikaBurn – be whoever you know yourself to be. Be that person now. Because if you’re just like everybody else, who will be You…?