So about three weeks ago I left Kenya in a furry of excitement. As I landed in South Africa I felt like jumping up and down with my hands in the air yelling, “I did it, I did it!” I am not sure what I “did” (in terms of helping a village, growing as a person, lasting in Kenya for four months) as the effects I am sure will be coming when I have a bench mark to compare to back in North America.
Nonetheless I traveled to South Africa to met up with some friends who were participating in an art residency house in Cape Town and going to Afrika Burn. In Cape Town I found myself among a group of talented artists in an art residence /AWOA. It is a genius platform of collaborating artists from around the world, but mostly from Canada seeking to get re-inspired in a culturally dynamic grass roots neighborhood. Pretty. Creative. Murals. This is where I met the crew that would travel 400 km into the Tankwa Karoo desert to experience and participate in Africa Burn. We were all were very excited about this festival, for most of us this was the first burn and experience in Africa.
After a ride thick with anticipation we arrived at sunset only to set up tents only quick enough to ward off the rain. A little bit of fear struck through me. It was cold and raining and although I prepared for anything in the desert, I favored sun and heat in my preparations. Great.
A huge part of the burn is the theme camps that outline the inner perimeter of the burn sites. Our /AWOA crew had hooked up with a giant yellow truck “Judy” that drove down from Rwanda whose theme was “The Land of Soft Things”. . Oh how lovely… to have a nice place to land in the middle of the vast, hard, cold desert. The camp was a massive lounge made from bales of hay covered by a giant yellow cloth. Days prior to our arrival were spent trying to finish her set up. On day two after yet again another effort to set up The Land of Soft Things camp the rain came and it came hard. Rivers (in the desert??) formed beneath my feet and a state of disbelief struck everyone. I feared that rain was going to fall for the duration of the trip and put a damper on the festivities. Relief came for a few brief moments for us to put on dry clothes when the skies closed up again… but this time it HAILED! Yes… Hail in the desert. I thought to myself.. this truly is unexpected. This too shall pass and it did after which I, being part of the domestic team prepared a warm meal. The sun came out and brought every ones moods. We all rejoiced to shake it off in an epic night of celebrating in the dance tents. What a great night. I was so happy.
Back to the camp, Judy, and introducing our fearless visionary Raf. Raf gives the best hugs EVER and planned to have a multicolored parachute over the top to shade dwellers from the sun in the day, however rain, hail and a trail of unexpected events stopped that from happening until the third day. Each day we woke and attempted to rally a half effort to sort out our camp. Everyone a little slow which was only expected after epic evenings of jumping on giant snails traversing across the baron land, getting high on deep dark trance music and getting lost then getting found again. The desert was luxurious, dramatic, cold, loving and ever changing. Anything you needed you could find it in the desert. Even the things that I didn’t know that I wanted or needed I could have in the desert. What surprised me the most was how much Judy provided. She was the loving hearth of the Land of Soft Things, possibly the entire Burn. She was like Mary Poppins bag, items just kept pouring from her. Judy provided. On the last day (or there about) we finally erected the parachute over top. Raf pulled out a huge bag of marijuana and the boys went to work. As the afternoon wore on so did the nibble fingers rolling J’s to provide the biggest smoke out ever. At 4:20pm in true Canadian style 61 marijuana cigarettes were tossed on to an anticipating crowd lounging around. Bikes primed the crowd with his chill beats and had his one of many moments playing Frank Sinatra in the desert, so prime. J’s were passed around, everyone took a hit or two and then fruit and nuts were passed out on silver platters. Every detail oozed from Judy. Next sensation was the laughing gas. Raf and his balloons. 42 balloons were passed out and we all hit the ground in ecstasy (or at least I did.. feeling the best orgasm in at least four months… ha!) oh what a feeling. That night while roaming around I heard gossip of my own camp “did you hear they handed out 50 joints”…. I corrected them, stating it was 61 and we tossed them and your standing next to the roller. So awesome. Judy got more accolades and as I talked with people compliments came out saying they slept on her, had a great afternoon there and just a general happy awesome feeling.
The burn community is wide open and for many this my have been their first time experience of that kind of genuine openness. I found people to be raw and rare. Each had and has their own unique gifts that they had to give and I as I met them their personal philosophies and messages ballooned over their head like comic book wordage. I strolled along the playa with a beautiful man and embodied love and light. In a string of synchronized events I married to a lifelong commitment to myself (and the beautiful man.. ha!). I gave Tarot readings and met some interesting cats. Days ran into nights and nights ran into days. Allowing the events and feelings to come up, I was happy yet scared at the dark places in my mind. Looking across the desert onto the erected san clan the scene looked like a drippy painting of Salvador Dali mixed with Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I started to wonder if this is what the unconscious mind sees and if it is our society and personal filter is the culpruit that puts the damper on things. Hmmm. With a child’s eye and a lover’s heart I sought out the light of the desert. One of the reasons why I came to the burn was I thought it would be fitting to “burn” out Africa. I thought that I would have more clarity about my time on the continent, I thought I would find closure and grounded-ness… I couldn’t have been more wrong. I left the burn feeling more confused and less sure of the world that I lived in. I drifted between the surreal, ideal and real with lost intentions to discern one from the other. And that continues… in another post. 😉