AfrikaBurn 2024: 29 April to 5 May


Reflections on the first Jozi Streetopia ~ words and most pictures by Solar Santa

In 1886 Jozi was a dry and desolate place. A little like Tankwa Town with a bit more grass and a few trees. No river nearby like most future major cities in the world. Then along came a couple of prospectors named Harrison. A rock sample gleamed yellow and the rest is history. As far as I know, all they got for their pains was a street named after them.
Fast forward to 2019. A determined young lady named Sonica has dreamed for years of copying AfrikaBurn’s Cape Town Streetopia, and bringing it to Jozi. And Voila! She got her wish. Persistence pays.

I don’t pan for gold but seek quality relationships. After a clever orthopaedic surgeon hammered in a new knee, I am ready to get out again. The pretty physio’s notes read “take short walks but often”. Which motivated me to get down to Melville and my extended Burn family. All working their tails off to make the first show a success. Did they succeed? Judge for yourself. Here’s the story as seen through my old eyes.
The brilliant Jeff and Dave’s Dung Beetle is already installed at the top of 7th Street even though it is early. Their team is busily building the sound stage so music is a certainty.

Scheepers (Streetopia Ranger Wrangler and a representative for the tech team in Jozi) and his faithful dog (Flippie) appear from down the road. Dressed in his finest Burn gear including tall hat and extremely high heel boots. “They kill me for days afterwards,” says Skippy, “ but a boy’s got to do what a boy’s got to do”. Bravo, fashion leader. The pretty girls can’t leave him alone. My painted boots don’t have the same magnetic effect. But his dog likes me after I share my breakfast pork sausage with him.

Sonica the Festival Organiser and Special Events Lead for AfrikaBurn emerges out of the crowd and sashays up to me for a big hug. It is still early but the day is beginning to improve every minute.

Meet the Pavement Specials. No kidding. It is outside a restaurant on the pavement so I guess the title is apt. But these puppies can play. Richard plays a Hawaiian originated lap steel (like a horizontal guitar on his lap) and Struan plays a mean trumpet.
There are interesting people around every corner. Meet Dung Beetle DJ Makombe and his security guard pal Sasa. The headband is real fur but he did not kill the leopard.

A pair of nuns walk down the street. Meet Ivan and Matthew accompanied by Cleo. I find out to my surprise that they are practically neighbours in the Valley where I live. I’d guess they’d attract some strange looks of they wore those outfits in Magaliesburg.

My hardworking blog editor Eleen emerges from the crowds to give me a big hug. Here she is with Verity Maude and her classic artwork The Embrace. Beauty from the Burn. Erected by Roger Ganaway.

Sonica introduces me to Dionne. An external art coordinator for the Extinction Rebellion and a carnival artist famous for her giant puppets. Where else but Streetopia or the Burn will you meet such special people?

The mutant vehicles arrive in numbers. Dave does not frighten the little girls with his oversize spider buggy. In fact, they like to pose on it. And Shannon (see in the picture below) is equally unfazed.

Mariette is a teacher. Her outfit sparkles with a thousand sequins. She tells me she is born to be famous. So this story is one more step towards this lofty goal. That’s the gigantic Donkey mutant vehicle behind her.

Below Joubert is seen practicing to be a big wheel so that he can afford to keep his Mom Eleen in the style she is accustomed to when she is old.

Laurence is the mastermind behind Be Hold this year and is practically my neighbour. His partner Melissa jumps into the street to hug me. I see them seldom but here they are. Pixie dust again.

Adrian is a wannabe Burner. Monica in the Cheshire Cat hat will ensure that it is soon accomplished.

Security is rock solid. With a small army of well-armed troops in body armour, we are safe. Sonica likes hanging out with the big guns and is relieved when the City officials sign off the EMS installation including a fully staffed and equipped standby ambulance.

My knee is starting to hurt. The surgeon has promised a 15-year warranty if I treat it correctly post-surgery. So time to go but one last outstanding wish-list item. The pixie dust has once again blown in from Tankwa Town. Monique, the Goddess of the Tankwa, finds me in that huge crowd and gives me a big hug. But there’s more. My cup runneth over when I enjoy an invitation to meet her Mom Margaret, formerly a famous artist, her sister Michele, an off the grid permie farmer, and Alex. It doesn’t get any better than this so I head for home before my luck runs out.

It is early evening. The air is still and the setting sun an artist’s masterpiece. I cycle back contentedly to the house after locking the farm gate. The border collies are happy to have me home. My day is complete. You cannot buy the immediacy I enjoyed today. I live alone but am not lonely. The love of my extended family sees to that. Can’t wait for the Burn 2020.
Solar Santa
October 2019.

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